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Legislature advances bill allowing nursing homes to administer medical cannabis

Virginia lawmakers continue to fine tune legislation that aligns with the state’s growing medical cannabis program by advancing two Senate bills that would facilitate the work of caregivers and lab employees. 

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By Chip Lauterbach

Virginia lawmakers continue to fine tune legislation that aligns with the state’s growing medical cannabis program by advancing two Senate bills facilitating the work of caregivers and lab employees.

SB 185 sponsored by Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, would allow employees at nursing homes, assisted living facilities and hospices to administer CBD and THC-A oil to residents who have a valid written certification to use the medication. SB 885 from Sen. David W. Marsden, D-Fairfax, would remove criminal liabilities for analytical lab workers who transport and possess both substances during the course of their work.

Marsden also introduced legislation to protect individuals from possession charges for having marijuana in the form of cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil, if they have valid written certification from a practitioner.

In 2019, Dunnavant and Marsden helped pass legislation signed by the governor to reduce restrictions for patient access to the substances (SB 1557, SB 1719).

CBD products are used to treat epilepsy and to help with pain management for a variety of ailments. The product can be extracted from hemp, a plant in the cannabis family that is typically low in THC. The non psychoactive version of THC is THC-A; it does not produce a high. THC-A has been used to treat seizures, arthritis and chronic pain. Fibers of the hemp plant are also used in making rope, clothing, paper and other products. Hemp recently became legal at the federal level, and its cultivation is still regulated.

There is a distinction between hemp-derived CBD oil and marijuana-derived CBD oil, namely the level of THC present.

Dunnavant told a Senate panel that the bill is needed so that staff at assisted living facilities can be included as those authorized to store and administer both CBD and THC-A to residents and patients. Registered nurses and licensed practice nurses can legally administer the oils. Last year lawmakers passed legislation protecting school nurses from prosecution for possessing or distributing such oils, in accordance with school board policy.

Several nursing homes and assisted living facilities when contacted said that currently the use of CBD or THC-A are not allowed at their locations and that there are no immediate plans to incorporate such use into the care of their residents or patients.

Marsden sees his bill as an opportunity for further research and development of medical marijuana in Virginia. The state pharmaceutical processors permitted to manufacture and dispense marijuana-derived medications can distribute products with doses that do not exceed 10 milligrams of THC.

“If a laboratory is going to handle a drug that is marijuana, they need immunity from prosecution.” Marsden said. “Even if we go into decriminalization, that still has some civil penalties for it.”

Richmonder Brion Scott Turner is glad that steps are being made towards CBD becoming more available. Turner uses CBD to help with his own medical condition.

“I use a CBD infused lotion for my psoriasis,” Turner said. “It gives me relief from the itching and the psoriatic arthritis that comes with it.

Turner has said that most of his friends and family use CBD to help with a variety of ailments from minor headaches to anxiety attacks.

“My mother uses CBD for anything from lower back pain, helping with an upset stomach or even migraines,” Turner said.

Other cannabis related bills moving through the General Assembly include HB 972, which would decriminalize simple possession of marijuana down to a civil penalty of no more than $25. The Senate version of the bill carries a civil penalty of no more than $50.

HJ 130, currently in the Senate Committee of Rules, would direct the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to study options for the regulation of recreational adult use and medical use of cannabis. SJ 67, which has passed the House and Senate, directs JLARC to study options and make recommendations for how Virginia should go about the growth, sale and possession of marijuana. JLARC’s recommendations are due by July 1, 2022.

Both Dunnavant and Marsden’s bills reported out of committee and are headed to the House floor.

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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Downtown

New report finds Virginia Capital Trail generated $8.9 million in local economic activity last year

The report concluded that the Capital Trail contributed approximately $8.9 million in economic activity during FY 2018-19. The Trail which has seen a 65% increase in trail usage in March and a 46% increase in April over last year, is a driving stimulus for local business, tourism, and economic activity, the report found.

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The Virginia Capital Trail Foundation recently released an economic impact report by the University of Richmond in collaboration with the Institute for Service Research, the findings were significant.

The report concluded that the Capital Trail contributed approximately $8.9 million in economic activity during FY 2018-19. The Trail which has seen a 65% increase in trail usage in March and a 46% increase in April over last year, is a driving stimulus for local business, tourism, and economic activity, the report found.

The full economic impact report can be found here.

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Community

Venture Richmond Spruces Up Downtown

There are 126 new hanging baskets installed along Broad Street from Belvidere to 12th Street in the Arts District and in the Shockoe neighborhood. Just one of the new beautification projects from Venture Richmond recently completed.

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Venture Richmond just completed efforts to enhance the downtown area including Canal Walk and Brown’s Island.

They’ve been funding beautification projects in the downtown area since 2013. Over the years they’ve worked with

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Capital One volunteers, and Virginia BioTech Park volunteers.

“Beautification projects are critically important to Downtown and its gateway neighborhoods. They help to inspire civic pride, create a sense of place and enhance the environment for businesses, residents and visitors, as well as attracting bees and butterflies to our urban areas,” said Lucy Meade, Director of Economic Development and Community Relations.

This year’s beautification projects included:

  • 126 hanging baskets installed along Broad Street from Belvidere to 12th Street in the Arts District and in the Shockoe neighborhood
  • 24 planters on Broad Street, 3rd Street, and 5th Street
  • 13 planting beds in the 400 block of East Grace Street
  • 5 medians including two blocks of Broad St. from Foushee to 1st Street, 3rd Street and I-95 ramp; 12th and Canal streets, and 14th and Dock streets (last two complete in early July)
  • 300+ annuals planted along the Canal Walk and around the Headman Statue on Brown’s Island

In addition to items above, the Clean & Safe Program’s contractor, Community Business Group (CBG), a local minority-owned firm, has been providing the “essential service” of sidewalk cleaning seven days a week throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, they have collected 269,000 gallons of trash and leaves.

​Following damages that occurred to businesses during recent protests, Venture Richmond and CBG launched a new Graffiti Cleaning Pilot Program as part of Clean & Safe. Property owners and businesses in the Downtown Service District area can request help removing graffiti by emailing [email protected].

Another item you’ll see soon is social-distancing circles on Brown’s Island to help visitors mantain social distancing.

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Business

Venture Richmond teams up with city for “Picnic in a Parklet” program to assist businesses during reopening phases

“We acknowledge the difficulty Richmond businesses face when trying to safely reopen and want to do what we can to make that easier on them,” said Max Hepp-Buchanan, Director of Riverfront and Downtown Placemaking for Venture Richmond. “Parklets have the potential to offer an attractive, comfortable space for customers to physically-distance adjacent to the business, which may be needed for a smoother reopening. We look forward to working with any business in the city that submits a request.”

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Venture Richmond has announced a new initiative, “Picnic in a Parklet,” a program designed to assist Richmond restaurants and other businesses with Phase 2 and 3 of Forward Virginia. Through this new partnership with the City of Richmond, business owners can receive design and permitting assistance for their requests for more outdoor space, particularly parklets.

Parklets are outdoor patio spaces constructed in the on-street parking lane of the street in front of a business that can function as an area for customers to gather and/or take to-go orders and eat outside in a physically-distanced environment. Parklets are, by definition, public space; but, restaurants can offer lightly packaged to-go orders for people who simply want to dine in the parklet in front of the restaurant.

“Transforming our use of public space innovatively and sustainably requires partnerships just like this one,” said Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney. “By linking the business and design communities, this program will expand the city’s growing network of creatively designed public spaces.”

Business-owners who are interested in temporarily converting an on-street parking space adjacent to their storefront into a parklet will be connected with Venture Richmond to better assess their needs. If a parklet will be helpful and appropriate, Venture Richmond will work with the American Institute of Architects Richmond Chapter (AIA Richmond) to connect businesses with a certified architect for pro-bono parklet design services. Venture Richmond will assist the applicant through the steps needed to obtain a permit from the City of Richmond.

“We acknowledge the difficulty Richmond businesses face when trying to safely reopen and want to do what we can to make that easier on them,” said Max Hepp-Buchanan, Director of Riverfront and Downtown Placemaking for Venture Richmond. “Parklets have the potential to offer an attractive, comfortable space for customers to physically-distance adjacent to the business, which may be needed for a smoother reopening. We look forward to working with any business in the city that submits a request.”

Unless otherwise specified or revoked, parklet permits are valid for three years. All requests within Richmond City limits will be considered.

Requests for parklets can be submitted through the RVA Strong website. General information about parklets can be found here, and more information about the City of Richmond’s Parklet Program can be found here.

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