The Republican Senator’s personal experience of how powerful cannabinoid medication can be clearly influenced her decision to patron the bill:
“After this week, I won’t be able to forget Tamra Netzel, the patient and my constituent with multiple sclerosis that testified on behalf of this bill in committee.
“My niece also has MS and having the opportunity to help others in similar situations means a lot to me.”
If passed, the bill would place Virginia among the other 29 states and 3 U.S. territories that allow the use of cannabinoids for medicinal purposes.
Chief patron of the House bill, Delegate Benjamin L. Cline, made clear that his support for the bill was based on scientific evidence and compassion:
“CBD/THC-A oil has been proven to effectively and safely help patients address symptoms of intractable epilepsy and manage pain.
“By expanding the ability to recommend CBD/THC-A oil, we are giving doctors the freedom to make a recommendation based on the most up to date research and data, just as they do for any other medication they prescribe.”
Virginia NORML, a cannabis law reform campaign group, was instrumental in not only getting the bill passed, but also in initially igniting the State-wide conversation about medical cannabis law reform.
Discussing the rise of the bill, Nikki Narduzzi, NORML’s coalition director at Cannabis Commonwealth, explained how the campaign group managed to get Cline to patron their bill:
“I met with Delegate Cline mid-December at the Starbucks in Staunton to present him with the hard ask: ‘Would he patron a Let Doctors Decide bill that would allow all patients to access the same medical marijuana products that were available to epilepsy patients?‘
“He was happy to agree and ‘my fight’ instantly got easier.
Jenn Michelle Pedini and Nikki Narduzzi at a cannabinoid medicine conference at Harvard Medical School, April 2017
“I could never put into words just how meaningful his patronage and support was, especially at a time when I had very little (physically and emotionally) to give.
“I had burned my patient advocacy candle at both ends and was just barely hanging in there.”
The campaign group hopes the bill can help curb the State’s growing opioid crisis.
Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML and two-time cancer survivor, explained:
“Medical cannabis laws have demonstrated a significant impact on the opiate crisis.
“States with such laws see on average a 25% reduction in opioid fatalities.
“We are losing three Virginians every day to opioid overdose. It’s time to give doctors in the Commonwealth the ability to utilize this powerful tool in mitigating addiction and overdose.”
With such strong political support from Ralph Northam, Virginia’s Governor, it is hard to see the bill failing to be made into law.