Virginia Bill Would Legalize Medical Marijuana, Foundation to Thwart Federal Prohibition

RICHMOND, Va. (Feb. 1, 2016) – A Virginia House bill would legalize medical marijuana for qualifying patients in the state, setting the foundation to effectively thwart the deplorable federal prohibition on the same.

Introduced by Rep. Mark Levine (D-Alexandria), House Bill 2135 (HB2135) would permit the use of marijuana as long as “the substance was obtained directly from, or pursuant to, a valid prescription, order, or written certification issued… [by] a practitioner while acting in the course of his professional practice.” It builds upon already-existing laws regarding cannabis oil to broaden patient access to medical marijuana.

Under the provisions of HB2135, physicians would be trusted to use their own judgment when prescribing medical marijuana to patients. It reads, in part:

"No practitioner shall be prosecuted… for dispensing or distributing marijuana for the treatment or to alleviate the symptoms of a patient’s medical condition pursuant to a written certification… Nothing in this section shall preclude the Board of Medicine from sanctioning a practitioner for failing to properly evaluate or treat a patient’s medical condition or otherwise violating the applicable standard of care for evaluating or treating medical conditions."

The state Board of Medicine would be responsible for coming up with specific regulations regarding medical marijuana. They would also issue identification cards for qualifying patients. Dispensaries would be effectively legalized by the legislation as well.

Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as HB2135 and its House counterparts remain perfectly lawful, and the feds can do little if anything to stop them in practice.

LEGALITY

The federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970 prohibits all of this behavior. Of course, the federal government lacks any legal authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

Legalization of medical marijuana in Virginia would remove a layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition will remain on the books.

FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By curtailing state prohibition, Virginia could sweep away much of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly annual budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution either. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.

A GROWING MOVEMENT

Virginia could join a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition, and thwarting it in practice. Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska have already legalized recreational cannabis with California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts set to join them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization were passed in those states earlier this month.

With more than two-dozen states allowing cannabis for medical use as well, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more.

“The lesson here is pretty straight forward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,”  Michael Boldin said.

WHAT’S NEXT?

HB2135 was referred to the Criminal Law Sub-Committee. The sub-committee must approve the bill before it can receive a full House vote.