How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in Virginia [2020]

Overview
At the time of writing, Virginia doesn’t have an MMJ program in place like other states. Instead, it permits medical patients to benefit from an Affirmative Defense Certificate to use THC-A or CBD oils. Applicants need a doctor’s recommendation and also register with the appropriate state bodies. Also, there is a limit on how much THC any product can contain.
State Program
Approved on
MARCH 2019*
Online Application
NO
MD Evaluation
Required
REQUIRED
Card Validity
12Months
Patient Registry fee
$50
Phone:
N/A
Official Gov Site:
virginia.gov

At the time of writing, Virginia doesn’t have an MMJ program in place like other states. Instead, it permits medical patients to benefit from an Affirmative Defense Certificate to use THCA or CBD oils. Applicants need a doctor’s recommendation and also register with the appropriate state bodies. Also, there is a limit on how much THC any product can contain.

When talking about states with the most open medical marijuana laws, Virginia doesn’t enter the discussion. However, the state decriminalized personal possession of small amounts of cannabis in February 2020. The bill, called HB972, went into effect in July 2020.

Today, Virginians caught in possession of up to an ounce of marijuana will receive a $25 fine and no criminal record or jail time.

It is a step forward, but the state still doesn’t have an official MMJ program in the same way as other states. Instead, it offers something substantially more restrictive. Legislative bills, HB 1251 and SB 1557 permit qualifying patients to obtain permission for specific products. With a doctor’s recommendation, you can purchase THCA oil or CBD oil, as long as it contains less than 10mg THC per dose.

Virginians also don’t receive an MMJ card. Instead, they benefit from ‘Affirmative Defense.’

What Is Affirmative Defense in Virginia?

It is effectively a means of defending yourself against legal action. Once you receive certification from a doctor, Affirmative Defense protects you from criminal charges for using cannabis products. It doesn’t mean the activity is legal. It merely ensures you don’t get arrested by police as long as you use your medicine in accordance with Virginian law.

Affirmative defense is a means of protecting MMJ patients without breaking federal law. Ultimately, Virginia’s medical marijuana ‘program’ falls well short of the standard of others. However, it is (slightly) better than nothing. Keep reading to find out more about getting an Affirmative Defense Certificate in Virginia.

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How to Get Affirmative Defense in Virginia

Those who try to get medical marijuana in Virginia should know that the state’s program is highly restrictive. No legislation allows for the “legal” medical use or possession of cannabis in the state.

Here are the basics of all you need to know about medical marijuana in Virginia:

CANNABIS IN VIRGINIA: UNDERSTANDING THE BASICS

Things to UnderstandDescription
Virginia does not have an actual medical marijuana programVirginia does not have a specific program that legalizes medical marijuana. Instead, they offer Affirmative Defense. It potentially allows select individuals to possess certain cannabis oils under the permission of a licensed Virginia doctor.
“Affirmative Defense” is not medical marijuanaEven if you obtain a doctor’s written permission to use cannabis oil in the state of Virginia, this does not mean you are legally allowed to possess it. It simply means that if arrested on charges of marijuana, you may receive protection/exemption from criminal prosecution.
It’s completely up to the doctor, but…There are no specific medical conditions that “qualify” for Affirmative Defense in Virginia. It is entirely up to the doctor whether or not they want to permit patients to use cannabis. However, very few doctors in Virginia are willing to participate in the Affirmative Defense program. One main reason is a lack of incentive on their behalf.
Nowhere to buyThe Affirmative Defense does not offer Virginia residents any options for buying cannabis products in the state. You can buy illegal products that could contain toxins and other chemicals. Alternatively, you could buy cannabis from a legal state and bring it home. Alas, this is also a federally illegal action!

It is a situation that benefits no one. If you are still interested despite the risks and restrictions, here is the process.

Step 1 – Find a Physician

You need to find a licensed doctor in the state of Virginia willing to provide written permission for you to use cannabis. You can only use those registered with the Virginia Board of Pharmacy. When in doubt, search the state’s database of licensed practicing physicians.

The doctor will issue you with written permission on an official form available through the Virginia Board of Pharmacy. You can find that here. There are also services such as Leafwell that help you book an appointment with a certified physician. The process is usually relatively quick. The doctor will discuss your condition and decide if you should receive certification.

You can also receive permission from a licensed Physician Assistant or Nurse Practitioner registered with, and certified by, the Virginian Board of Pharmacy. Only residents of the state that can provide proof of identity are eligible. Also, only applicants aged 18+ can apply. There are no specific guidelines for caregivers or minors.

Step 2 – Submit an Online Application

If you receive written permission, you need to register online with the Virginia Department of Health Professions and Board of Pharmacy. Otherwise, you don’t benefit from Affirmative Defense.  The Board usually processes applications in 7-10 working days. Once issued, the cards are mailed to your address. Of course, what you receive is called an Affirmative Defense certificate and not an MMJ card.

What Are the Virginia Affirmative Defense Costs?

It costs $50 to apply. You can also expect to pay around $200 for the doctor’s consultation. You need to renew the certification every 12 months.

What Conditions Qualify for Affirmative Defense in Virginia?

At present, there are no specific conditions that qualify for Affirmative Defense in Virginia. It is entirely up to the doctor to decide if they want to permit you to use cannabis. Residents of the state say it is challenging to find physicians willing to help. However, you may have a chance if you have one of the following conditions:

  • Cancer
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Crohn’s disease
  • PTSD
  • Chronic pain where opioids and other conventional treatments have not worked

Other Information on the Virginia Affirmative Defense Process

We have put together a short FAQ to help answer any other queries you have. The Virginia Affirmative Defense program is a tad confusing, so we hope the following information helps.

HOW MUCH CANNABIS DOES AN AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE ENTITLE ME TO?

You can only purchase THC-A oil or CBD oil with a maximum of 10mg of THC, and a minimum of 5mg of CBD or THC-A per dispensed dose. At present, there is no limit on the number of doses that patients can purchase. However, they are only allowed a 90-day supply per visit.

You can purchase the products in various forms, including tinctures, creams, oils, sprays, capsules, and gels. However, you can’t buy smokable types such as dry herb or vape products.

WHERE CAN I PURCHASE CBD OR THC-A PRODUCTS?

At present, there are five pharmaceutical processors/dispensaries in the state that sell what you need.

DOES AFFIRMATIVE PROTECTION SHIELD ME FROM PROSECUTION?

No. It does not offer a guarantee of legal protection. It only ensures that there is the possibility of not being charged with a crime. However, patients must learn more about the policies of hospitals. Remember, MMJ remains a federally illegal substance in the United States.

Even if you have Affirmative Defense, you could get into trouble in a hospital that strictly adheres to federal law. As a result, you could go to the hospital and lie on a bed in excruciating pain. Then, you look up and see a police officer in your room because you use MMJ. Regardless, you must ensure you have your Affirmative Defense Certificate with you at all times.

WHAT ABOUT CAREGIVERS & MINORS?

Though there are no specifics, there is a type of caregiver program. Also, parents/legal guardians can apply on behalf of minors. The process involves completing two application forms and a lot of other paperwork.

CAN I GROW CANNABIS IN VIRGINIA?

No. There are no provisions for legal marijuana growing in Virginia.

DOES VIRGINIA HAVE A RECIPROCITY PROGRAM?

No. The state of Virginia doesn’t recognize MMJ cards from other states. Also, no state offers reciprocity to Virginia patients either.

Final Thoughts on Affirmative Defense in Virginia

Ultimately, Virginia doesn’t have a medical marijuana program. Instead, it has a highly restrictive option where patients can get Affirmative Defense. It still ensures that they are at risk of prosecution because the certificate doesn’t provide iron-clad protection. It is a complete fudge and places MMJ patients in need of help at the mercy of law enforcement.

For those unwilling to run the risk of legal jeopardy, the only other option is to see if CBD oil can help. In this instance, you need to look for products with a THC content of no higher than 0.3%.

There is potentially good news on the horizon. In July 2020, a group of Democratic legislators announced their intention to legalize cannabis in Virginia completely. However, they don’t expect to file the appropriate legislation until 2021 at the earliest.

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