RICHMOND, Va. — “It’s like a Charley horse in your arms, but it’s constant,” Tamara Netzel said, describing the pain she feels every day.
In 2013, the Alexandria woman was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. At the time, she was a teacher. Being so active with the students every day became difficult, so she retired early.
Sometimes, she has trouble speaking too.
“I followed all of the doctor’s orders and those medications ended up making my liver go into failure,” she explained.
When nothing else worked, two years ago Netzel tried Cannabidiol, or CBD, oil, which is derived from cannabis plants.“A warm feeling that rushed down my arms,” she said. “A relief that took the pain down quite a few notches.”
When five Virginia medical cannabis dispensaries open within the year, the closest for Netzel will still be at least an hour away in the car. Some days, it’s a struggle to get behind the wheel.
Senate Bill 1719, sponsored by Sen. David Marsden, is designed to help. It allows patients in hospice, assisted living, rehabilitation facilities or those who aren’t physically able to drive to one of the dispensary locations to designate someone else to pick up their CBD or THC-A oil based products. Those individuals also called “registered agents” in the bill would have to register with the Board of Pharmacy.
“This medicine is not like a regular medicine you can get at CVS where you can just go have your spouse pick it up,” Jenn Michelle Pedini, the executive director of Virginia NORML, said. “This has to be a registered person, so we needed to create this definition under state law.” Patients who are given a written certification from their doctor to go to these dispensaries also have to register for a medical cannabis program with the Commonwealth.
On days she can’t leave home, Netzel will be able to have her husband, Tom, pick up her medicine. A move like this in the legislature, Netzel says, shows patients are being put first.
“It tells me that they’re thinking of patients needs,” she said, “before even the processors open.”
Another change that happened that will be noticed in these dispensaries is the products available. Because of SB1557, medical cannabis will be able to come in other forms, like creams and lozenges, not just oil.
SB1719, as well as the three other medical cannabis related bills, will go into effect July 1 if the Governor signs off on them.