Va. Rep. Griffith introduces federal ‘Legitimate Use of Medicinal Marijuana Act’

U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) has introduced a bill that would legalize medical marijuana at the federal level, for states where possessing medical marijuana is legal, such as Virginia. (AP)
U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) has introduced a bill that would legalize medical marijuana at the federal level, for states where possessing medical marijuana is legal, such as Virginia. (AP)

Virginia Rep. Morgan Griffith (R) this week introduced a bill in Congress that would remove the federal obstacle to prescribing and possessing medical marijuana in states where that is legal, such as Virginia. He said he knows this will be a long hard fight, “but you’ve got to start somewhere.”

Griffith’s bill is titled the “Legitimate Use of Medicinal Marijuana Act,” and is only four pages. It moves marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II, in a grouping with not only cocaine and methamphetamine but Ritalin and Adderall, drugs prescribed legally for children. Removing marijuana from Schedule I takes it out of the “no currently accepted medical use” category and allows research to be conducted more easily, and would allow doctors to prescribe it in states where medical marijuana is legal to possess, such as Virginia. Virginia does not allow the sale of medical marijuana, but it has had a law on the books since 1979 permitting its prescription and possession for medical purposes. When Griffith was a state delegate, he said he was the only Republican to oppose an effort to erase that law from Virginia’s statutes, an effort which was unsuccessful. Even in states such as Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal, doctors may not prescribe it because of federal law restricting prescription authority. Instead, doctors “recommend” it.

Griffith said he had been considering introducing such a bill, and then saw a story in The Washington Post earlier this month about families from Northern Virginia who had moved to Colorado to obtain medical marijuana oil for their children with epilepsy. But he has long been a supporter of medical marijuana, saying he once knew of a cancer patient who was provided marijuana secretly in order to build up his appetite to eat and survive. “Isn’t it cruel,” Griffith said, “to not allow real doctors, real drug companies and real pharmacists to use marijuana for legitimate medical reasons for real patients? We use all sorts of opioids under the same scenario that this bill would allow us to use marijuana.” He said the Virginia law “is the right way to go, but the DEA can’t let anyone use it legally. This eliminates that and allows you to move forward.”

WASHINGTON, DC - MAR 22: Beth Collins (center) from Fairfax, holds up a sign explaining how her family is divided between Colorado and Virginia over the legalization of medical marijuana, during the National Walk for Epilepsy, March 22, in Washington, DC. Beth has moved with her daughter to Colorado Springs recently to obtain medical marijuana oil to control her daughter's frequent epileptic seizures. She is part of a growing movement of families, some from this area, to relocate to Colorado, if reluctantly, because the cannabis oil seems to really work on their children's seizures when nothing else does. (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post)
Beth Collins from Fairfax holds up a sign explaining how her family is divided between Colorado and Virginia over the legalization of medical marijuana during the National Walk for Epilepsy on March 22 in Washington.  (Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post)

Beth Collins of Fairfax, who moved to Colorado Springs last fall with her 14-year-old daughter Jennifer and saw a drastic reduction in Jennifer’s seizures with medical marijuana, said the proposal “looks really good. It’s definitely a step in the right direction.” She said she had experience giving Ritalin and Adderall to her children, and “the side effects are much worse with those” than with medical marijuana. Collins did note that Colorado does not allow anyone to take its marijuana out of the state, so there would need to be more progress on this front on the state level in Virginia, or in Maryland or D.C. which have legalized medical marijuana for its residents. But that is partly Griffith’s goal, to allow states to develop their own laws and get the feds out of it.

Lisa Smith of Virginia Parents for Medical Marijuana said she was greatly encouraged by movement on the federal front. Her 13-year-old daughter Haley daughter continues to suffer as many as several dozen epileptic seizures a day, and she has been working with Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, her daughter’s former neurologist, to draft legislation to allow true medical marijuana use. She said opponents have noted the lack of scientific research on the effects of medical marijuana, and “this could go a long way toward getting scientific data. They can’t get data now because of the federal restrictions.”

Post reporter Colby Itkowitz of the In The Loop column has more on Griffith’s bill, including a link to a recent CNN poll which found that 88 percent of Americans support medical marijuana when prescribed by a doctor.

Tom Jackman is a native of Northern Virginia and has been covering the region for The Post since 1998.
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