North Carolina parents desperate for a way to treat their children’s epilepsy can legally turn to certain marijuana extracts beginning next month. That’s thanks to state lawmakers.
Just don’t look at this as a backdoor opening for the wider use of medical marijuana, according to state officials.
Gov. Pat McCrory signed HB 766 into law Friday. The law makes it easier to use CBD oil — oil extracted from cannabis plants — to treat severe epilepsy in children. The oils are purposely designed to be low in THC, the ingredient responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana.
It’s an update to a law McCrory signed in 2014 that allowed state universities to use the oils in clinical trials. But those trials have yet to start so the new law allows caregivers — neurologists in this case — to recommend parents use the oils as an alternative treatment. The state will compile a list of families eligible for the treatment.
“The key thing to understand is that these CBD oils can’t be used to get high,” said Rep. Kelly Hastings, whose district includes parts of Gaston and Cleveland counties. “But I think there is some anecdotal evidence to suggest this may help people in these situations.”
Hastings said he was contacted by his wife’s friend, a pharmacist whose epileptic child has failed to respond to doctor prescribed treatments.
“This is an intelligent, credible person who basically said the smartest people in the world haven’t been able to come up with a cure for her kid,” Hastings said. “So she wanted to have this option, any option she could try. For me, that’s all it took to get my support.”
But the limited availability of CBD oils mean neurologists can’t technically prescribe them — they can only recommend them — and pharmacists won’t have them on hand. Hastings said parents will likely have to turn to the Internet to make their purchase.
Because the THC content of the oils in question are so low, Hastings said he didn’t believe ordering the oils from a supplier in another state would open buyers up to federal prosecution.
“With prosecutorial discretion, especially in cases where you’ve got families that can make a medical case for these using these oils, I don’t think they’re opening themselves up to legal problems,” Hastings said.
Hemp Inc., an industrial hemp research and development company headquartered in Las Vegas cheered the passage of HB 766 in a press release issued Monday.
The company owns 9 acres of land and a 70,000-square-foot facility near Rocky Mount that the company said can process commercial quantities of hemp fiber. That center also has enough room to produce CBDs, the company said.
Page 2 of 2 – “Now that the state has approved the legalization of CBD/hemp oil, Hemp Inc. can build this space out in order to accommodate the state’s medical needs, should that decision be made,” the release said.
Reach Adam Orr at 704-869-1819 or Twitter.com/AdamROrr.
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