Medical marijuana bill passes Virginia Senate 40-0

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RICHMOND — The Virginia Senate voted unanimously Monday to pass the Joint Commission on Health Care bill SB 726, which will let Virginia doctors recommend the use of cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil for the treatment of any diagnosed condition or disease.

This comes on the heels of Friday’s unanimous passing of the companion bill, HB 1251, in the Virginia House of Delegates.

“I finally decided that I needed to advocate for the physicians being the decision makers,” said Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, the chief patron of the Senate bill. “We, physicians, are the ones that follow the literature and know which treatments are best for different conditions. The literature on medical cannabis is going to be evolving rapidly now, and because of this, it is not a decision that should be in the hands of the legislature. Instead, it should be with physicians.”

Regular Virginians suffering from a variety of conditions — including cancer, Crohn’s disease and PTSD — have lobbied passionately for this reform.

“Honestly, until this week, I’ve always thought of it helping my patients that have breast cancer, especially the young ones that have children and have so many things to get done, but feel so terrible as they go through chemotherapy,” said Sen. Dunnavant, a doctor. “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.”

‘Let Doctors Decide’

The chief patron of the House bill is Delegate Benjamin L. Cline. Staunton’s Nikki Narduzzi, advocate for medical marijuana legalization in Virginia, approached Cline about the bill.

“What we really needed was a House patron that could get the bill out of the Criminal Law Subcommittee and carry it across the finish line,” says Narduzzi. Cline held a position on the Joint Commission on Health Care and the Criminal Law Subcommittee.

“He voted in favor of our previous bills, had shown great compassion and respect for patients who shared their stories and was well-known for being respected by his Republican colleagues even though he was also known to speak up on positions that weren’t always viewed favorably by his own party members,” says Narduzzi. “He was the perfect advocate to have on our side.”

“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. I could never put into words just how meaningful his patronage and support was, especially at at 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,” says Narduzzi.

More: Nikki Narduzzi talks about her decision to use cannabis oil