Every day more and more states, cities and municipalities are relaxing and reforming existing marijuana laws, either through decriminalization or outright legalization. Most recently, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed into law a marijuana reform bill aimed at allowing those with severe forms of epilepsy to have access to cannabis oil.
“This is common sense,” said McAuliffe at the signing. “It is the right thing to do. And this, in fairness, is what elected official ought to do – to help people’s lives.” Yes, the ceremonial signing was filled with warm fuzzy feelings for medical marijuana patients and their families.
However, when you look at the details of the bill, you realize that this piece of legislation is nothing but a feel good do-nothing bill.
The bill, HB 1445, does not legalize medical marijuana in any form. What it does: if caught with CBD or THC-A oil, it provides an affirmative defense for patients with severe epilepsy who have a doctor’s recommendation to use the treatment. For those of you that don’t know, THC-A is a non-psychoactive precursor of THC that reduces inflammation and nausea.
Providing an affirmative defense for marijuana oil is on the legal scale somewhere between illegal and decriminalized. You can still get arrested and taken to court, but an affirmative defense will help you beat the charges.
On a state level, an affirmative defense for medical marijuana might cut it, but there is no guarantee on the federal level.
Aside from failing to provide substantive legal protections for medical marijuana patients, the bill also fails to provide a legal method for the patients to obtain the necessary marijuana oils. There are no provisions for home growing, dispensaries or even a licensed caregiver program.
Virginian patients can only gain access to medical marijuana crossing state lines; and interstate marijuana trafficking is an even more egregious crime than simple possession. How Virginia’s legislators thought HB 1445 would fix this issue is a mystery.
Understandably, marijuana advocacy groups have criticized the flawed legislation. Speaking with the Huffington Post, state policies director at the Marijuana Policy Project, Karen O’Keefe, expressed her disappointment in the bill.
“For desperate families who have no other options, it’s better than nothing,” said O’Keefe. “But, not much. Patients are on their own for getting their medicine. Last I heard, street dealers weren’t known for having tested and labeled strains that are low in THC.”
Despite utterly and completely failing medical marijuana patients, that has not kept politicians from patting themselves on the back over this bill. Democratic state Sen. Dave Marsden, the bill’s co-sponsor, told WY Daily that “This bill is a triumph of science over fear,” yet anyone with common sense knows that is not true.
It was fear that kept HB 1445 from being a true medical marijuana bill, and it’s fear that keeps marijuana illegal in Virginia. If you’re hoping for Virginia to open up a marijuana market sometime soon, don’t hold your breath. It is not science that governs the state legislature, it is fear; and as long as fear reigns, reform is nothing more than a far away dream.