Virginia lawmakers have tweaked medical marijuana laws so the drug can be dispensed in lozenges, lollipops and lotions, and so school children certified to use it will be protected from expulsion and their nurses from prosecution.
The Virginia Board of Pharmacy in November awarded licenses to five medical marijuana dispensaries to cultivate the plant, extract the oil and sell to customers who are registered with the state to use the product.
“The way the law was previously written, it could have been interpreted to mean literally oil,” said Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of the Virginia chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML. “This clarifies the formulation and allows pharmacists to dispense in any way the compounding pharmacies dispense.”
This includes lollipops, lozenges, capsules, sprays, creams and lotions, but not brownies to eat or buds to smoke.
Pedini said Virginia’s method to regulate extraction of the oils from marijuana plants is similar to those that were enacted first in other states, but that have since expanded to allow for other products.
Virginia set up the dispensaries, allowing for one in each of five health regions. The dispensary that includes the Roanoke and New River valleys will be in Bristol.
To obtain the product, doctors, who must first register with the state, will certify that CBD or THC may be helpful for a patient. Under the original rules, the patient would have to register with the state, and once the dispensaries open, show up in person to make the first purchases.
During this session, the General Assembly changed the law to allow for someone else to be named and registered to pick up purchases on the behalf of an incapacitated patient.
The federal government still considers these products illegal drugs, but the state certification and registration is considered an affirmative defense if someone is arrested for having the products.
Lawmakers agreed to extend that type of protection to children who are certified to use the products so that they are not suspended or expelled from school, and to school nurses, who may store and dispense the products to students with certifications.
Lawmakers also better defined dosages to reflect that a dose must contain at least 5 milligrams of CBD or THCA and may contain up to 10 milligrams of THC.
The product is unlike most drugs prescribed by physicians in that certification does not specify exact dosages.
Pedini said that is why pharmacists are important to the dispensaries, as they will be able to work with patients to determine doses and formulations.