Virginia Votes To Maintain Marijuana Prescription Law

Legislation to repeal an 18 year-old state law permitting physicians to prescribe marijuana for patients suffering from cancer or glaucoma, was voted down by a Virginia Senate committee by a 9-6 vote.

The vote signaled a major victory for medical marijuana proponents and was a significant blow to the Clinton administration, who were reportedly backing the bill. “All of the professionals and people in the know told me that this bill was going to pass no matter what,” said Virginia activist Lennice Werth, who lobbied against the bill. “What really stopped this bill was the power of the people.”

Testimony in favor of keeping Virginia’s progressive medical marijuana law was provided by physicians William Regelson of the Medical College of Virginia and NORML Board Member John Morgan of City University of New York (CUNY) Medical School, as well as patients. Regelson, who conducted government-approved research in the 1970s on the benefit of THC in cancer patients, told the Senate Education and Health Committee that his studies demonstrated that marijuana is “superior as a medicine” and better than synthetic THC.

Dr. Billy Martin, a Virginia Commonwealth University pharmacology professor who testified both against and in favor of the bill, advised delaying action on the measure until future scientific studies are conducted.

“The purpose of putting this on the books was to be ready if federal policy changed,” agreed Sen. Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax County), who noted that pending federal studies may encourage the federal government to reschedule marijuana.

Although Virginia’s law does not provide for legal access to the drug because it is in “positive conflict” with federal marijuana prohibition, the state’s recognition of marijuana’s therapeutic value does help patients suffering from serious illnesses a stronger legal defense against marijuana possession charges.

For more information, please call Lennice Werth at (804) 645-8816 or Allen St. Pierre of NORML at (202) 483-5500.