Danny's Desk: News from the Virginia General Assembly
Jan 30, 2018

The Details Are Important:  

Bills introduced at the Virginia General Assembly come in all varieties. Some topics are quite complex and highly controversial. Two of those are marijuana and hemp.

During the past two years I have been contacted by constituents who have asked me to look into allowing medical marijuana as a treatment for pain when patients are dealing with cancer and other conditions that are debilitating. Medical marijuana is a cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil.

When I was contacted by veterans in the area who said it would help them, I looked further into the issue and introduced a bill this year. Other delegates also introduced medical marijuana bills and I decided to withdraw my bill and sign on to Delegate Ben Cline’s bill, HB1251.

Existing Virginia code currently only allows CBD/THC-A oil to be prescribed for intractable epilepsy. We had parents bring children to the legislature a couple of years ago and testify how it had helped the child by reducing the number of seizures, when nothing else had. They were traveling out of state to get treatment for the child until Virginia allowed the use for just epilepsy.

The new bill will allow doctors to use the treatment as a pain management tool when they determine it medically necessary. Delegate Cline’s bill is a result of a recommendation of the Joint Commission on Health Care.

If the bill passes, medical marijuana will only be available in pharmacies from a doctor’s certification. One hope -- is that this treatment might be effective enough for some patients that it can take the place of strong opioids currently being prescribed. It is a medical treatment. Use should not make a person “high.”

Another substance that might cause confusion is industrial hemp. When we hear the word hemp, that might bring to mind a drug. The important word is “industrial” hemp which is a totally different plant. While both are in the cannabis family, industrial hemp is completely different from marijuana in its function, cultivation and application.

Industrial hemp can grow 20 feet tall and is planted close together. It is used to reinforce automobile dash boards and other parts. It is used in clothing, construction, and plastic. However, because of misclassification about 45 years ago, it is prohibited by Federal law.

Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte is working to have the industrial hemp classification changed, so that it would be legal in the U.S. It should not have been coupled with the hallucinogenic drug, which is very different.

The only way that industrial hemp can currently be grown in Virginia. is for research. Virginia Tech, UVA and some other universities have started research programs. The seeds can only be obtained from Canada, are protected, and very expensive.

Why are we doing the research on industrial hemp? The former Secretary of Agriculture told me that it is used so widely in European cars and other products, that there is a great market for it.

Industrial hemp is adaptable to varying growing conditions and I am told that it would grow well in our area. We have the fertile land and a great climate for growing this type of plant. Let’s look at this for a new cash crop for the region.

We will have to create a distribution and market, so it is not easy, but we could do it and it could help our farmers and the economy.

As chairman of the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee, I recognize the importance of agriculture and forestry being the number one industry in Virginia. I am always trying to find another product for our farmers to generate additional income.

We are currently in our offices in Richmond.  My Legislative Aide, Mary Franklin, is staffing our office here, located in Room 301 East of the Pocahontas Building.  You can contact us by sending an e-mail to DelDMarshall@house.virginia.gov or by sending a letter to me at PO Box 406, Richmond, VA 23218-0406, or by calling 804-698-1014. And, visit www.dannymarshall.com to complete our 2018 Survey (bottom of Homepage