Roanoke prevention advocates concerned about Virginia medical marijuana law

ROANOKE, Va. – Let doctors decide. That was the decision by the Virginia General Assembly. About a week ago, Gov. Northam signed a bill providing protection for those using a form of medical marijuana into law.

Prevention professionals are concerned about the decision's potential effect on teens and those at risk of addiction.

"Potentially it could open up the floodgates so that we see more and more substances related to marijuana and its properties being approved for use," said Tracey Coltrain, director of the Roanoke Area Youth Substance Abuse Coalition. 

House Bill 1251 relates to the use of CBD oil or THC-A oil. The two can now be recommended for any diagnosed condition or disease determined by a doctor. But Coltrain's concerned that lawmakers are making the decisions and not the FDA. She said the coalition is working to get the word out that the change of law does not legalize possession, it provides an affirmative defense in case a patient is found with oil and arrested. 

"When you hear that cannabis oil is being approved for medical use, it can be confusing to people. So we want people to understand that marijuana is not being legalized in the state of Virginia," said Coltrain. 

On the other side, medical marijuana advocates are celebrating. They said the oils can be life-changing for certain patients and are a better alternative to opioids.

"There are lots of people that I work with that are suffering from illnesses that CBD oil could really provide profound relief," said Katie Clifton, head of the Roanoke Valley NORML chapter.

If you are a patient considering using cannabis oils, there are steps you must take to follow the law and protect yourself because again, marijuana is still illegal.

Virginia NORML, a group working to reform marijuana laws, gave these steps for individuals who use the oils.

1. Print and fill out the official certification for the use of cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil from the Commonwealth of Virginia.
2. Take it to your doctor and ask him or her to sign it.
3. Keep the signed certificate with your oil at all times.
4. Present the certificate if questioned by law enforcement officers.
5. If your certificate is not accepted and you are charged with possession, call an attorney or ask for court-appointed counsel.
6. Present your signed certificate 10 days prior to trial as directed.