New Virginia Laws Regulating CBD for Medical Use—Reasonable Compliance or Unfair Practice?

By Christopher Cussat

Cannabidiol or “CBD” is a cannabis compound scientifically determined to have potentially significant medical benefits. CBD is non-psychoactive because it generally does not contain (or contains very low levels of) Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

As a result, it is often appealing for patients seeking relief from anxiety, inflammation, pain, psychosis and seizures from conditions like arthritis, depression, diabetes, epilepsy, MS and PTSD without the “high” effect of THC. Although relaxed cannabis laws in states like California, Colorado and Washington have made the use of products like CBD much more common and less controversial, new regulatory laws are constantly being made and rewritten in states throughout the country—including Virginia.

In 2017, Virginia first passed a law allowing patients suffering from intractable epilepsy access to CBD. Then on March 9, 2018 Governor Ralph Northam signed HB 1251 which significantly expanded legal certification for the use and dispensing of CBD.

HB 1251 Highlights

  • Only oil-type products are permitted, not whole plant cannabis (extracts must contain at least 15% CBD and no more than 5% THC).
  • Legal protections are provided as long as patients and caregivers have a “written certification” from their doctor and register with the state.
  • Any doctor who is licensed to practice medicine or osteopathy in Virginia may issue certifications.
  • Businesses approved as “pharmaceutical processors” can cultivate cannabis, manufacture CBD oils and dispense them to patients.
  • There will be five businesses permitted across the state where patients can purchase CBD oil (most likely active by Summer 2019).
  • Pharmaceutical processors will be permitted to dispense a regulated 90-day supply of CBD oil to patients.

What Experts Say

Dr. Bomi Joseph, founder of Peak Health Center and Phyto Farmacy, also developed ImmunAG—a high potency CBD derived from the humulus kriya plant, which was created due to the prohibitive regulations around hemp and cannabis-derived CBD. He sees several problems with the new Virginia laws as currently written. “We have a general disconnect between the institutions in place, the laws in effect and the events that are taking place.” For example, Joseph does not consider CBD a medicine, so he feels it should not be limited to doctors and patients.

Joe Kennedy is founder and CEO of Hemp Fields Farm-PA, a family-owned, Colorado-based company that manufactures sustainably sourced, full spectrum, organically-grown CBD hemp oil and extracts. He also finds most state laws unjust, believes all plant medicine should be accessible and that no plant should put a person in jail.

Medical Designation?

Further criticizing HB 1251, Joseph states that doctors do not know how to “prescribe” CBD. “How would a general doctor know how much CBD patients should get, what form the CBD should be and when should patients take it?” He also believes there should be restrictions against people making medical claims about CBD. Kennedy adds that CBD is a great daily supplement and it does not have to be used medicinally.

Fair Practice

In addition, Joseph thinks it is not fair that someone without a disease who wants to use CBD cannot have access. Kennedy agrees, “This limits accessibility to those with access to medical providers—not everyone is lucky enough to have that access.” To this end, Joseph says that there is no difference in the use of CBD recreationally and medically, other than the dosage.

Kennedy observes that access to CBD in Virginia is much more regulated than in Colorado—therefore its use here is very limited, and for those who cannot see a doctor, there is no legal access. “It’s funny to me that the access to CBD is so controlled in Virginia, but there is little to no regulation over the quality. Without access to third-party testing, there’s limited transparency and no saying for sure what’s in your hemp products.”

Perhaps these concerns and potentially unfair inconsistencies with the new Virginia law will begin to dissipate and find balance when The Farm Bill (recently passed in the U.S. House of Representative and Senate) becomes law on January 1, 2019 and completely legalizes the hemp industry. “I think CBD will then become more accessible and legal for all Americans,” concludes Kennedy.