Virginia lawmakers approved a bill last week that will allow school nurses in the state to administer medical cannabis to students on campus and at school events. The bill, SB1632, also protects students with the proper medical certification from suspension or expulsion for possessing THC-A or CBD oil. The bill was passed on February 23 in the House of Delegates by a margin of 95-1 and unanimously in the Senate by a vote of 40-0.
Under current laws, possession of all forms of cannabis is prohibited and can result in expulsion and referral to law enforcement for prosecution. The measure was introduced in January by Sen. Glen Sturtevant, a Republican from Richmond, who said then that young people should have the same opportunity to use cannabis medications as other prescription drugs.
“Virginia students and their families depend on new, safely produced and regulated cannabidiol and THC-A oils to treat a host of potentially debilitating conditions,” said Sturtevant.
A staffer from Sturtevant’s office said that the bill had the support of teachers and school administrators.
“Both the Virginia School Board Assn. and the Virginia Education Assn. spoke in favor of the bill in subcommittee,” said legislative aide Nikki Thacker.
Under the bill, the Virginia Department of Health Professions will be required to create a standardized form for health professionals and the dispensing pharmaceutical processors to document student certifications. Diane Powers, director of communications at the department, said that the form would not be ready until next school year.
“The form cannot be implemented until after the law becomes effective July 1, 2019 and the oils will likely not be available for obtaining from a pharmaceutical processor until later this fall,” Powers said.
Jenn Michelle Pedini, the executive director of the Virginia chapter of the National Organization of Marijuana Reform Laws, applauded lawmakers for passing the bill.
“We are incredibly pleased that the Virginia General Assembly recognized the importance of ensuring students have access to these medicines without disruption to the school day,” said Pedini. “Now, instead of parents having to take their children off campus to administer their medicine, school health care providers will be able to provide necessary doses just as they would any other pharmaceutical.”
Second Bill Expands Access to MMJ
Also last week, Virginia legislators passed another bill, SB1157, which will allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants, in addition to doctors, to write recommendations for patients to use THC-A and CBD oil. The bill also will permit regulators to create rules for a broader range of medicinal cannabis therapies, such as topicals, capsules, lozenges, and suppositories.
SB1557 was introduced by Republican Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, who is also a physician and advocate for increased access to medicinal cannabis. She said that the bill will allow patients easier access to their medicine of choice.
“Allowing nurse practitioners to make treatment available will shorten the wait time and suffering for patients dealing with pain,” Dunnavant said. “It is an effective way for physicians to offer low-cost and low-risk remedies to their patients.”
Both bills are now awaiting the signature of Gov. Ralph Northam.