New group promoting cannabis industry in Virginia
As the medical cannabis industry sprouts to life in Virginia, a new trade association aims to promote the budding industry across the state.
A group called CannabisVA hosted a panel discussion Monday night about the current legislation and regulatory process for cannabidiol (CBD) oils for medical and pharmaceutical purposes.
CannabisVA was recently formed by KVCF Solutions, a lobbying firm owned by the Richmond law firm Kaplan Voekler Cunningham & Frank PLC. Part of CannabisVA’s mission is to encourage a favorable and responsible business environment for medical cannabis and cannabidiol in Virginia.
In September, Virginia’s Board of Pharmacy awarded conditional approval for licenses to five companies to grow cannabis, manufacture cannabidiol or THC-A oils and sell them to patients registered with the state.
To be considered for a license to make and sell cannabidiol oils, the 51 interested companies had to pay a $10,000 application fee. The selected companies currently are undergoing background checks before receiving final approval.
Legislation governing the licenses required that they were awarded in five different areas of Virginia.
Monday night’s panel consisted of Virginia Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-12th; Dr. David Brown, director of the Virginia Department of Health Professions; Dr. Travis Shaw of Travis Shaw, M.D.; and Cal Whitehead of Commonwealth Strategy Group. Steve Baril of KVCF Solutions moderated the panel.
Brown said he has been amazed by the progress made around the medical cannabis legislation on both sides of the aisle in Virginia. In 2015, Virginia’s first law addressing cannabidiol or THC-A oil allowed a legal defense for use only by people with intractable epilepsy. Now, the current legislation allows their use if recommended by any physician for any condition.
“That really opened the field,” Brown says. “Times have changed.”
Cannabidiol, THC-A and THC are chemicals produced by the cannabis plant. THC is the chemical that makes people high. CBD and THC-A are chemicals that do not make people high.
More than half of U.S. states along with Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, according to the Pew Research Center. Cannabis is still illegal under federal law. Nine states and Washington, D.C. have legalized cannabis for recreational use. A Pew Research Center poll saw 62 percent of respondents saying use of cannabis should be legal.
Dunnavant says that since Virginia’s legislation was based around the expected demand for the oils by epilepsy patients, there likely will be continued discussions around meeting demand for legislation that allows the oils be recommended for any medical condition.
Dunnavant says it has to be demonstrated that the process in place is diligent and faithful to legislators for whom legalizing medical cannabidiol oils has been outside of their comfort zones.
“That may be a conversation we’re having in this legislative session,” Dunnavant says. “We want to have that supply and demand worked out.”