When Tamara Netzel decided to get up in front of Virginia lawmakers and talk about medical cannabis oil, she worried about a backlash.
She didn’t have to worry about derailing a career because her multiple sclerosis had already forced her into medical retirement from her former job as a teacher in Alexandria. She wanted to explain that when she drops hemp-derived oil under her tongue a few times a day, the pain in her arms and hands turns to warmth, bringing relief she says she couldn’t get from a needle nerve block or other government-approved drugs.
Still, she felt uneasy about what people might think if she publicly associated herself with something linked to marijuana.
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“I think there are people out there who know this helps,” said Netzel, a 48-year-old military wife and mother of two Eagle Scouts. “But they are afraid to speak out.”
There was no negative feedback. And there was virtually no opposition in the General Assembly to bipartisan legislation to expand access to cannabidiol (CBD) and THC-A oils, just as the state prepares to issue licenses for what will be Virginia’s first dispensaries for medical cannabis products.
Within the next few weeks, the Virginia Board of Pharmacy will open a competitive application process for up to five cannabis-oil facilities, one for each of the state’s five health regions.
The system will put Virginia among a handful of states in the Southeast with medical cannabis programs, though the restriction to oils will make it far less robust than the full-blown medical marijuana setups in states like California and Colorado.
With efforts to decriminalize possessing small amounts of marijuana gaining little traction in the legislature, legalized