This month, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine joined the growing number of legislators advocating for medical cannabis reform. Last Wednesday, the former VP candidate signed onto a bill that would allow the use of CBD for epilepsy. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, would also remove federal impediments to CBD research and force federal officials to consider scheduling the drug in a different category than marijuana, which is currently considered a Schedule I drug with no medical value.
This week, Kaine cosponsored a bill with Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch that would increase researchers' access to cannabis for medical studies. This bill would also require the National Institute on Drug Abuse to create recommendations for good manufacturing processes to create the best possible cannabis for research purposes. Kaine did not support earlier versions of these bills during last year's legislative session, nor has he signed on to any other pro-cannabis bills.
A statement Kaine's office sent to MERRY JANE said, “Senator Kaine is open to commonsense changes to marijuana laws and recently co-sponsored bills to expand research looking into the medical benefits of marijuana, including a focus on whether it’s a safe alternative to opioids.”
Kaine's tentative support of cannabis reform has been growing slowly over the past several years. In a 2014 radio interview, he said that he has "never been a legalization fan." He said that legalization "would not be a good idea" because of "a whole series of both health- and sort of crime-related reasons." However, the Senator did say that he supported the "reexamination of sentences because I think often, for sentences for marijuana and marijuana usage, I think some sentences are too strict."
Two years later, while campaigning with running mate Hillary Clinton, Kaine said that he supported states' rights to enact their own cannabis laws free from federal interference. "Hillary and I both believe that states can be labs for that and that they should do what they think is right," Kaine said in a pre-election radio interview. "Also, we really believe in sentencing reform at the federal level so that folks who've been convicted of nonviolent drug offenses should not be in prison to the degree they are in this country. For purposes of the state laws, whether it's medical or recreational, we feel like we should leave that up to the states."
Kaine's support of the two medical cannabis bills reflect a growing wave of support for cannabis reform on Capitol Hill. After last week's elections, Democratic wins in New Jersey and Virginia are expected to have immediate implications on pro-marijuana laws.