|Delegate David Englin hopes to revitalize a 30-year-old Virginia law which allows marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes|
A medical marijuana bill is scheduled to go before a Virginia House committee on Tuesday.
Northern Virginia Delegate David Englin hopes to revitalize a 30-year-old Virginia law which allows marijuana to be legally used for medicinal purposes, reports Jerrita Patterson at CBS 6.
The bill, if passed, would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for the treatment of medical conditions such as cancer and glaucoma. (Aye, that’s the hang. Doctor’s can’t “prescribe” a drug considered Schedule I by the feds; see below.)
Delegate Englin’s bill would prompt Governor Bob McDonnell to ask the federal government to change its stance on marijuana, making it legal to prescribe everywhere.
If the governor agrees to ask the Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify cannabis, he will join the governors of Rhode Island, Washington, and Colorado, who petitioned the federal agency over the past few months.
Delegate Englin said he doesn’t think there’s any chance that this bill will pass, but he said it’s important to start a dialogue.
“Doctors, not politicians, should decide what’s best for their patients,” Englin said.
Now, for a little bit of background on Virginia’s existing medical marijuana law, which seems to have created a lot of confusion. (Make no mistake about it, homie; Virginia is not a “medical marijuana state,” and patients have no legal protection there.)
Since Jerrita Patterson incorrectly says in her video report that the reason patients aren’t legally allowed to possess marijuana in Virginia is because it’s federally illegal, that needs correcting here.
In 1979, the General Assembly passed § 18.2-251.1, which technically legalized medical marijuana — but since the law, unlike that of California 17 years later, uses language which requires doctors to “prescribe” cannabis rather than “recommend” it, rendering the law unworkable. (Physicians could lose their licenses for “prescribing” a Schedule I substance like marijuana, but are allowed to “recommend” it instead.)
The reason Virginia patients can’t have medical marijuana — despite the passage of a medical marijuana law in 1979 — is because legislators didn’t know any better at the time than to write the bill so that it required a “prescription” from physicians rather than a “recommendation.” The other problem is that it would require patients to get their cannabis at pharmacies, which, of course, aren’t allowed to handled Schedule I substances.
It would be 17 more years before California legalized medical marijuana in 1996, with an initiative that specifies physicians “recommend” medical marijuana rather than prescribing it.
Many otherwise informed folks seem unaware of the important legal distinction between physicians “prescribing” and “recommending” marijuana; for instance see this online discussion at the site City-Data.com.
To view CBS 6’s (partially misleading) TV news report, click here.