A very interesting and important piece of legislation is soon to be heard in the Rules Committee of the Virginia House of Delegates. House Joint Resolution 139 calls for our Virginia governor to contact the United States federal Drug Enforcement Administration to officially request cannabis, aka marijuana, be removed from Schedule1 and placed in Schedule2.
H.J.139 is proposed by Virginia Del. David Englin and very much deserves our support.
Cannabis has been recognized by Virginia law as a legal medicine since 1979 with the passage of state law 18.2-251.1, which allows for cannabis as a treatment of glaucoma and cancer. In 1999, a disabled veteran named Brian Murphy attempted to use the state law as a defense for his use of cannabis for his neurological-based medical conditions.
The Virginia Court of Appeals ruled that Murphy couldn’t use the statute in his defense because the legislature had limited legal access to cannabis to just glaucoma and cancer treatment and referred him back to the legislature for much needed revision to this age-old law based upon the new science that is available.
With the discovery of the endogenous cannabinoid receptor system, cannabis’ effect on the human body is now better understood than ever before. This explosion of new science prompted the U.S. government to patent cannabinoids. U.S. Patent # 6,630,507 states unequivocally, “Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This newfound property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.”
The fact that the U.S. federal government still lists cannabis as a Schedule1 drug, which by definition means the plant material is devoid of any medical benefit whatsoever, causes many problems for patients and researchers across the country and especially in Virginia, where our state law still uses the language of prescriptions, which are technically illegal to write under federal law.
The American Medical Association recently recommended cannabis be removed from federal Schedule 1, stating in part, “Results of short-term controlled trials indicate that smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis.”
As a disabled veteran, I am denied services at the Veterans Administration hospital because ever since 2010 the VA has adopted a policy on medical marijuana that hands off responsibility of treating veterans’ medical conditions with cannabis to the states. The directive requires the VA to not punish veterans who use cannabis per state law, but it doesn’t do anything to help veterans unlucky enough to live in a state like Virginia that disrespects our medical needs.
Years ago, Virginians Against Drug Violence worked with the Virginia Tech Quality of Life surveys and found consistently between 70 and 80percent of Virginia voters are in support of controlled medical access to cannabis, and these numbers are echoed by many national surveys on the subject. It is time that Virginia stand behind our own state law, our medical patients, the majority of voters and the American Medical Association on this issue of medical access to cannabis.
Please contact your representative in Richmond and let your voice be heard in support of H.J. 139.