Another state will now allow sick patients to use a non-intoxicating form of marijuana.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill July 3 that legalizes so-called CBD oil, a medication used primarily to treat children with severe epilepsy. McCrory signed the legislation into law during a special ceremony, saying the oil could help scientists discover other ways to treat seizure disorders.
The state is now the 10th to adopt a CBD law. Alabama, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, Utah, and Iowa have all enacted similar laws, though lawmakers in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Iowa failed to provide a means for patients to actually get the drug.
Missouri’s governor is expected to sign a CBD bill in that state soon.
McCrory said he signed the North Carolina bill because it doesn’t allow “real” cannabis.
“It’s not really marijuana,” he said. “I know the headlines say marijuana, but this is hemp. There’s only trace amounts of THC in the medicine. You can’t get high. I don’t want to confuse the practice of using hemp for medicine versus the practice of using marijuana to alter someone’s brain.”
That’s a relatively meaningless distinction, since medical weed always works by affecting brain chemistry. CBD oil, for example, is thought to quiet seizure activity in the brain. That’s why it’s used as a treatment for epileptic children.
Those children and their parents have been the driving force behind CBD laws in North Carolina and elsewhere. The prospect of children suffering severe, even fatal, seizures has been enough to convince governors of socially conservative states to sign these laws.
Several families with children who need the drug attended the signing ceremony. The families started clapping, hugging, and laughing as soon as McCrory signed the bill.
“It doesn’t feel real yet,” said Sherena Ward, whose 6-year-old daughter, Haley, gave her name to the new law. “I need to be pinched. It’s exciting. It’s also emotional. I want to hug and hug my daughter.”
The law is very stringent. Patients who want CBD must get approval from a neurologist at one of only three hospitals, and to get that they must demonstrate that at least three other medications failed to treat seizures.
The drug will be available through a pilot program designed to study the effects of the extract.
CBD oil is derived directly from marijuana bud. It’s useful in treating a short list of illnesses. But because it contains little or no THC, it doesn’t help most MMJ patients.
That’s what made it possible to get the bill past conservative lawmakers in North Carolina and other states with CBD oil. But the bill in North Carolina may not allow for a functioning program, at least not without unlikely changes to federal law.
The state failed to provide for an in-state source of the drug, leaving that to Colorado’s legal weed market. But federal law bans interstate shipments of marijuana.
Lawmakers say patients will be able to get a chemical derivative of CBD oil, a drug called Epidiolex, in the meantime. That may not be much help, however. For many years, patients have complained that cannabis in pill form simply doesn’t work. The obsession among North Carolina officials with preventing anyone from getting their hands on the devil’s weed could sink the entire MMJ program.
Still, McCrory said he expects that program to grow and become more inclusive.
“Oh, I hope it will be,” the governor said. “That’s why you have trial periods.”