The cannabis industry is coming to Virginia; there’s no question about it. At this point, the big question is, “When?”
As more and more progress is being made in “the Mother of States,” we’ll continue following the most recent events and report on them.
Here are the top Virginia marijuana updates we’ve seen so far in February:
1. General Assembly closes the door to marijuana legalization until 2021
While the General Assembly shut down the proposals that would have legalized marijuana in Virginia this year, lawmakers say they’re going to look at the issue and could move forward with legalization in 2021.
At this point, the House and the Senate are pushing decriminalization bills forward, changing punishment for possession of a half-ounce or less of marijuana from a Class 1 misdemeanor with up to a year in jail to a civil fine of $25 to $50.
So what does this mean for Virginia?
Well, for starters, decriminalization would prevent low-level offenders from receiving jail time. However, this provision could make it challenging for employers to screen candidates for demanding positions.
The main thing to keep in mind here is that while legalization won’t come in 2020, 2021 could be the year.
2. Marijuana Decriminalization Approved By Virginia Senate And House
On February 11, this article was released to notify Virginia that the Virginia Senate had approved a bill to decriminalize the possession of marijuana.
The article discusses that Governor Ralph Northam supports this step towards decriminalization. With this being the case, Virginia is set to become the 27th in the U.S. to stop putting people in jail for low-level cannabis possession.
This new law also raises the threshold for what the state considers distribution or possession with intent to distribute. Rather than a half ounce, this amount is now raised to an ounce.
Virginia also considered including an expungement provision. However, the legislation was removed and placed in a wide-ranging expungement bill set for approval the week after.
The chamber also passed a bill to legalize possession of CBD and THC-A with a recommendation from a doctor. This is a change from the affirmative defense that’s part of the current policy.
3. Veterans fight for access to medical marijuana at Capitol
Is it fair that veterans still don’t have access to their medicine? This is the question those in the Capital pose through the Veterans Cannabis Project.
This article discusses the medical benefits regarding the plant with a highlight being placed on veterans using it to treat PTSD. Cannabis cannot be legally prescribed and can still be taken away as a punishment.
Michael Krawitz is quoted as saying the following:
You should never have any medicine taken away as a punishment. That’s unethical, and if your doctor is acting unethically, then they’re not acting in their standards of medical care, and they’re no longer protected by their medical license and they’re actually committing a crime.
Another issue this article touches upon is the five-percent THC cap that has been put on cannabis. This is problematic as it prevents veterans from receiving the full medical benefits the plant can provide.
Steven Lambrose, an Army vet working with the organization, had this to say:
Here in Virginia, I talk to veterans all the time, including my wife. And to have access to cannabis, she’d have to do things that are illegal. Now she’s caught in a place where she can’t get the treatment she needs without violating the things that are most important to her, and that’s a problem.
This article is relevant because it discusses a very real problem we see time and time again in Virginia. People do not have access to their medicine without being forced to break the law.
Fortunately, this veteran group is making sure the conversation continues growing to the point that it can no longer be ignored.
4. Would Legal Medical Marijuana in Virginia Reduce Opioid Addiction?
Bacon’s Rebellion’s article discusses the idea of how legalizing medical marijuana will impact the opioid epidemic. For those unfamiliar with this problem, the number of deaths from opioid overdoses go beyond gun-related deaths in the state.
As of 2017, Virginia experienced 455 murders and 1,241 drug overdose deaths involving opioids. With this being the case, the idea that legalization could decrease the adverse impact these dangerous drugs have been having is quite appealing.
So why are people abusing opioids? And how did this become such a significant problem?
Opioids were legally prescribed to treat pain. That’s right. Doctors have been prescribing opioids for non-cancer pain and in many communities, opioids became the go-to medication for pain relief, despite the addictive nature.
Norton and Martinsville, two Virginia localities, had the most opioid pain pill distributions from 2006 through 2012. During this time, Norton distributed 306 pills per person and Martinsville distributed 242. The ‘average’ resident took a pain pill every eight days during this time frame.
Ultimately, this led to an opioid epidemic in this region. And eventually, the pills became more difficult to get. Once they became difficult to get, they were sold on a secondary market for legally prescribed pills. Those addicted to the opioids eventually had to turn to heroin, resulting in a 286% spike in heroin-related overdoses from 2002 to 2013.
While opioids are still legally prescribed, medical cannabis could possibly help decrease the number of prescriptions — and the number of opioid-related deaths. Chronic pain relief is achievable for some people with medical marijuana in some instances.
This article discusses a study showing interesting data suggesting that marijuana prescriptions decrease opioid prescriptions. It could possibly have the potential to save lives by helping people steer clear of dangerous opioids.
Have you seen any awesome reads on the progress of the cannabis industry in Virginia? Feel free to link to any articles we might have missed for the month of February!
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