A South Carolina Senate subcommittee on Thursday advanced a bill that would allow the clinical testing of cannabidiol oil (CBD), which is derived from the marijuana plant.
The oil has been used to treat severe forms of epilepsy, but is illegal in South Carolina. The bill by Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, seeks an exemption for the medical marijuana extract that does not include the THC chemical that creates the marijuana “high” sensation. It now heads to the full Senate Medical Affairs Committee.
Dori Lovell of Summerville told senators Thursday that the legislation is moving too slowly for her three-year old grandson Julian, who was born with a brain disorder and suffers from severe seizures. Lovell openly sobbed as she said her daughter and family left their support system, their jobs, and the state in an attempt to seek relief for her grandson.
“As of Tuesday March 4, my daughter and her family are no longer residents of the state of South Carolina,” Lovell said. “They arrived in Colorado (where medical marijuana is legal) in the hopes that (cannabis oil) or medical marijuana would be a change in the course of Julian’s life.”
A similar bill filed in the state House by State Rep. Jenny Horne (R-Summerville) is named “Julian’s Act” in recognition of Lovell’s grandson.
Both measures would establish a medical cannabis treatment research program at the state Department of Health and Environmental Control and provide certain protections for patients that would participate in the testing program.
A Medical University of South Carolina pediatric epilepsy nursing professor warned that CBD oil is not regulated, meaning there could be insecticides and other contaminants in it. She says further research need to be conducted, but believes patients can benefit from the oil now under controlled circumstances.
“I would like to make sure that, in addition to the drug studies, we are able to use it for compassionate use,” Dr. Gigi Smith told the lawmakers. “We have families that can’t wait. They’ve waited too long.”
MUSC neurologist Dr. Paul Pritchard testified that he is afraid even if CBD is made available, doctors would be hesitant to prescribe at this time.
“There is going to be some reluctance on our part for prescribing a substance over which there are inadequate controls,” he said. “When I say controls, I mean in its manufacturing, its safety, and its reliability as too its potency.”
Prior to the vote advancing the bill, Sen. Davis said he thinks the bill passes the legal test because the cannabis oil does not contain THC.
“I think we are on solid legal footing,” he said. “The FDA itself in conducting these clinical trials is sort of the nod toward the fact that it really isn’t a Schedule 1 drug. Oherwise they would be going back to Congress and trying to get authority to do these clinical trials.”
A schedule 1 drug is defined by the U.S. Controlled Substance Act as one that has a high potential for abuse.