Starting July 1, 2020, medical marijuana has come to Virginia...kind of. With the laws changing, there has been a lot of information and misinformation that has been out there, and Dr. Mirza has been inundated with questions about it. This blog post should hopefully clarify things a bit, as well as provide direction on how to get your certification.
One of Governor Northam’s changes upon taking over the office was the question of medical marijuana. As a pediatric neurologist by training, Governor Northam was in a unique position to understand the potential use of medical marijuana, specifically CBD (cannabidiol) and THC-A oils, which have shown promise as treatments for numerous conditions, including many neurological conditions; this led to the law change in 2017 which allowed CBD/THC-A oil to be used in patients with intractable epilepsy. The law was expanded in 2018 with the Let Doctors Decide bill, essentially opening up the potential use of CBD/THC-A products for any clinical condition that the doctor sees fit. The catch was that the CBD/THC-A products needed to come from one of five in-state pharmaceutical processors; as of today, none of these processing plants have opened, but are scheduled to do so by the end of summer 2020.
The other major change is that possession of marijuana (up to one ounce) has been decriminalized; that does not mean that marijuana is now legalized in Virginia. If you are caught with an ounce or less of marijuana, there will be a $25 fine with no escalation for multiple infractions. Holding anything more than an ounce, growing your own plant, distribution (even as a gift), is still a felony and can carry a fine and jail time, up to 40 years potentially. Having paraphernalia that could indicate distribution, even with less than an ounce, can still be a felony.
So, what is CBD/THC-A? Cannabis has multiple chemical compounds, with these being the two that have been shown to have potentially medical properties. In psychiatry, the most common uses of CBD/THC-A have been in regards to potentially reducing anxiety, improving insomnia, reducing pain, as well as mitigating some of the effects of Autism spectrum disorder in reducing aggression and anxiety. The key word here is potentially, as there is no clear evidence-based research to come to this conclusion, meaning that results are reported by consumers.
But what is the difference between CBD and the stuff that I see at the gas stations? The main difference, and the main reason that there has been a bit of hesitation with CBD/THC-A, is that there is no regulation. An example is McDonalds; we know that a Big Mac in New York is going to taste the same as a Big Mac in California as a Big Mac in Florida, and everywhere in between because of the regulation and uniformity. Since CBD has been operating in this legal gray area for some time now, there is no guarantee that what you are buying is what you are getting. With these changes in the law in Virginia and the dedicated dispensaries, you will be able to count on consistency and testing of what you are taking home.
For those interested in pursuing treatment with and purchase CBD/THC-A, they will need a certificate that will provide an affirmative defense of owning it, essentially stating that they have a medical note to have because technically, CBD/THC-A is still illegal to own in Virginia (despite it not being a target of law enforcement). To get a certificate, one must get one from a Board of Pharmacy registered physician for CBD/THC-A who can provide it (Dr. Mirza is one). After obtaining the certificate, you would need to register with the Board of Pharmacy and obtain licensure which is good for 1 year, as well as pay a $50 fee for patients or $25 for parents of minors/incapacitated individuals.
To set up an appointment for evaluation and to get your certificate, please contact Dr. Mirza, or preferably, using the “Message us” button in the bottom right of your screen. Fees for evaluation and certification along with a step-by-step for registering with the Board of Pharmacy will be $150, and are being conducted via telepsychiatry.