Bill for cannabis oil production advances in General Assembly

Posted at 7:34 PM, Feb 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-16 19:34:17-05

RICHMOND, Va - The annual looming deadline of "cross-over" day, where only bills passed by one chamber of the General Assembly can be considered by the other, was especially noticeable for Northern Neck mother Lisa Smith.  In 2015, Smith and other families successfully lobbied state legislators to allow the medicinal use of cannabis oil to help treat severe seizures caused by epilepsy that pharmaceuticals cannot cure.

Smith's daughter Haley had 1,200 seizures before she began using cannabis oil.  Smith said Haley's seizures have drastically decreased since last year.

Smith and Beth Collins, a mother from Northern Virginia who's child has similar medical problems, are back at the General Assembly again this year pushing for legislation that would create and allow a regulatory process for production of cannabis oil in Virginia.  Senate bill 701 would make it easier for families with children who need cannabis oil to get it Virginia.  There are 27,000 people in the Commonwealth with intractable epilepsy, according to Collins.

However, Smith and Collins said SB 701 got caught up in a Senate committee and almost did not make it to floor before Tuesday's deadline.  The pair said they traveled to Harrisonburg over the weekend to gather signatures on a petition from voters to urge lawmakers to vote on the bill.  Their efforts paid off, and SB 701 was passed by the Senate Tuesday afternoon.

"We thought this it.  We really need to do this we need to keep fighting until the last second of session," said Collins.

"I'd encourage more people to come out and be citizen lobbyists, come out to speak their voice and have the voices of Virginians heard," Smith said.

SB 701 now moves to the House of Delegates for consideration.