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Epilepsy Foundation Pushes for Legal Medical Marijuana in VA - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Epilepsy Foundation Pushes for Legal Medical Marijuana in VA

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Medical marijuana is legal in 20 states as well as the District of Columbia, but what are the chances Virginia could become number 21? It's been the source of debate for years, but one foundation says if the commonwealth got on board, it could change a lot of lives.

The Epilepsy Foundation of Virginia is supporting a push from its national counterpart to limit restrictions placed on research and make the necessary changes to state laws.

Suzanne Bischoff of the Epilepsy Foundation of Virginia says she wants families to fight for legislation that would at least open the door to medicinal marijuana use in Virginia. Her mission started after hearing from a mother whose child suffers from Dravet syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy.

"For many of these Dravet kids, the conventional medications we use for epilepsy do not work. That is what got me going," Bischoff said.

But Bischoff says the number one obstacle is confusion. She says drug enforcement agencies consider marijuana a schedule one drug, meaning it currently is not accepted for medical use but rather considered to have high potential for abuse. On the other hand, the Food and Drug Administration has supported use of certain compounds of marijuana, like THC. Bischoff says THC is "legal in Virginia for Glaucoma and cancer, so you see how everyone is confused on the matter."

Police also say if the issue were to move forward they too would need the confusion to be ironed out from an enforcement perspective.

"Although we do some training, We'll have to get on board just like the state of Colorado did to be able to have drug recognition experts in the field," said Lt. Ronnie Roberts with the Charlottesville Police Department.

"Think logically, a Dravet kid who has a 100 to 300 seizures a day, how much problem will they cause law enforcement?" Bischoff said.

Bischoff says more research is needed and is working with a doctor on her advisory board to provide hard evidence to representatives.

"And I think if we can show them reasonable research, then we can convince them to expand the present law in Virginia," Bischoff said.

Bischoff admits there is no scientific evidence that medicinal marijuana would work for people with epilepsy, but says many parents of children with Dravet have made a very good case.

We contacted some delegates to get their response as to why medical marijuana has not gained traction in Virginia, but did not hear back from them by air time.
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