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New medicinal cannabis treatment available for breast cancer patients in Virginia

Posted at 6:35 PM, Oct 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-05 18:35:48-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, patients in Virginia have another tool to help them manage the side effects of treatment thanks to the new medical cannabis laws passed in this year's General Assembly.

Breast cancer survivor Bernice O'Donnell says she experienced many of the common symptoms associated with chemotherapy.

"I ended up being nauseous, like so many other chemo patients and to combat that the doctors prescribe to anti-nausea medication, which was helpful. However, with chemo, you end up having difficulty for me at least difficulty passing food and then the anti-nausea medication made it even more challenging to pass food," she said.

O'Donnell said she would definitely have tried medical cannabis had it been available while she was going through treatment.

Jenn Michelle Pedini of Virginia NORML says data already collected is positive.

"Patients have been able to find relief from the side effects of chemotherapy by using medical cannabis relief for issues like pain, nausea, loss of appetite, and sleep disruption, as well as anxiety, not to mention pain that may be associated with the cancer itself," said Pedini.

They say that medical cannabis can be an alternative to opioids, something that struck a chord with legislators looking for a solution to the opioid crisis. Pedini is optimistic about how this new option will do in the Commonwealth.

They say, "it will have the same results here in Virginia that we've seen across the country where we're seeing a very quickly about 25% reduction opioid overdose fatalities and increasing up to about 35% after just a few years."

Patients like Bernice O'Donnell says the extra option is one more way to get through a tough treatment.

"Your life is not normal. When you're going through treatment. But any benefit, anything that can make your life that much more comfortable is such a huge plus, that it would be worth it to to use it," O'Donnell said.

Right now there are plans for five dispensaries in the Commonwealth. The first, Dharma Pharmaceuticals, is expected to open in Bristol any day. Richmond-based G-Leaf is on track to open mid to late October.

To find out more about Virginia's Medical Cannabis program, click here.

Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation is hosting a series of free educational webinars during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The first focuses on medical cannabis in the commonwealth. It will take place Thursday, October 5 at 4 p.m. To register and find out more about the webinar series, click here.