Approving Cannabis Oil as a Medical Treatment in Virginia

A bill that would allow physicians to broadly prescribe a form of medical marijuana received preliminary approval in the Virginia House of Delegates on Thursday and seems likely to become law, its sponsors say, after years of failed attempts.

The legislation, HB 1251, would permit the use of non-hallucinogenic marijuana or cannabis extracts known as cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil to treat any diagnosed condition or disease. Scientific studies indicate that the oils can reduce nausea and alleviate pain, and also may slow the growth of and kill some cancer cells.

After a final vote in the House on Friday, the legislation would move to the Senate, where sponsors of the House bill say it also has strong support.

“This allows another option for residents of Virginia, and it does provide some assistance for pain management and may give people an alternative to . . . opioids,” said Del. Benjamin L. Cline (R-Rockbridge), the chief sponsor of the House bill.

Similar bills have failed for years in the state legislature, although a more narrow statute passed in 2015 allows Virginians to use cannabis oils to treat “intractable epilepsy.” But that law does not provide any way for the drug to be produced in the state or for patients to secure a doctor’s permission to obtain it.

The District of Columbia and 28 states, including Maryland, have legalized most or all types of marijuana products for medical purposes. Nine states and the District have also legalized the drug for recreational use.

Sixteen other states, in addition to Virginia, allow limited use of marijuana products for a narrow range of diseases, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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