On the East Coast, every state from Maine to the Potomac River has a medical marijuana program or has taken steps to either decriminalize or legalize marijuana. Both Maryland and DC have medical marijuana programs; DC has legalized possession and home cultivation, and a group of Maryland legislators are pushing to fully legalize sales for recreational use. Travel southbound and it’s a different situation.
In the commonwealth of Virginia, drug reformers are proceeding cautiously. Discussions in the General Assembly in Richmond during this year’s 30-day session didn’t include serious talks of decriminalization or legalization; even a large-scale medical marijuana program is off the table. Quite simply, the state isn’t there yet. It’s been moving forward slowly with some affirmative defenses for possession of oil—most notably cannabidiol oil, or CBD oil, which is derived from the cannabis plant. The defense of the production of CBD oil will be regulated by the Board of Pharmacy, which is the most significant gain in a short term session.
Virginia currently offers residents with epilepsy an affirmative defense for the use of CBD oil. That means that while the oil itself remains illegal, patients with epilepsy whose doctors have recommended they use it are unlikely to be charged for having it. Moreover, the state Senate just recently approved a bill that expands the list of conditions for which the affirmative defense could be used, adding cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma and Crohn’s disease.