House panel OKs controversial hemp oil drug
Posted June 18, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — A state House panel on Wednesday approved a measure to allow the use of CBD oil for medical treatment of seizure disorders.
CBD stands for cannabidiol, a compound found in marijuana. It's being increasingly used by doctors to treat intractable seizure disorders, especially in children, for which other therapies are ineffective and often toxic themselves.
Sponsor Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret, was in tears as she explained in a House committee meeting the need for the bill.
"Some of [the children] have seizures up to 200, 300 a week, and their parents have to sit there and watch them go through it. It’s life-threatening," McElraft said.
The measure, House Bill 1220, has faced opposition from some who say it opens the door to legalizing medical marijuana. But McElraft said the plant used to make CBD has been genetically engineered to produce a lot of CBD but very little THC, which is the psychotropic substance in marijuana.
In fact, she said, the plant is so low in THC “that it’s not even considered to be marijuana any more" but is referred to as hemp instead.
"You could drink the entire [bottle of medicine] and never get high," she told the House Health Committee. "This is nothing. It would make a drug addict very disappointed if they ever got hold of it."
The measure would allow doctors in North Carolina to give seizure patients a CBD oil called Charlotte's Web. McElraft said it has shown real promise in use in Colorado, where it is legal, cutting seizures in children down to almost nothing. She said families now are forced to travel to Colorado or even move there to receive the treatment.
McElraft said three universities in the state have also been selected by the FDA to run clinical trials of a CBD compound.
The committee heard testimony from Steve Carlin, whose 5-year-old daughter, Zora, has Dravet syndrome, a rare, incurable, debilitating epilepsy disorder.
"The medicines we're giving her today are ripping her apart," Carlin said, adding that none of them have worked.
He said he and wife have to sleep in shifts to monitor Zora to make sure she stays alive through her seizures. She has 40 to 60 of them a day and functions at the level of a 2-year-old because of developmental delays caused by the disease.
"The CBD oil has an 85 percent chance of turning this around for my daughter," Carlin said. "Please, I am begging you. I am on my knees for thousands of kids and people."
No one from the public spoke against the proposal, and no one on the committee did, either. It passed unanimously on a voice vote. It will be heard next in the House Finance Committee.