Marijuana oil nears NC approval as seizure treatment
Raleigh, N.C. — State lawmakers on Thursday approved a measure to allow the use of CBD oil for medical treatment of seizure disorders, sending the proposal to Gov. Pat McCrory.
McCrory said Thursday evening that he would sign the measure into law.
“This law will help ease the suffering endured by children from whom no other treatments are effective against their seizures,” he said in a statement. “I want to congratulate the General Assembly for crafting a bill that not only improves the lives of many North Carolina children and their parents, but also provides common-sense regulation and facilitates clinical research at our major research universities.”
CBD stands for cannabidiol, a compound found in marijuana. The oil is being increasingly used by doctors to treat intractable seizure disorders, especially in children, for which other therapies are ineffective and often toxic themselves.
“This is helpful to a lot of kids where nothing else seems to help,” said Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson. “This (bill) will put North Carolina on the cutting edge of treating this type of epilepsy.”
The Senate voted unanimously for the bill Thursday morning, and the House voted 112-1 a couple hours later to agree with the adjustments the Senate made to the proposal.
Under the bill, families and their neurologists would have to register with the state to possess and administer the CBD oil. Physicians also would be required to participate in a state pilot study of the effectiveness of the treatment on seizure disorders.
The bill initially called for the CBD oil to become legal as of Oct. 1, but lawmakers moved that date up to allow families to start using it in North Carolina as soon as the Department of Health and Human Services drafts rules for the pilot study.
The legislation also calls on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, Wake Forest University and East Carolina University to work with the registered neurologists on clinical studies of the CBD oil. Universities also could start growing hemp to conduct research on the plant itself.
Sens. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, and Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford, related their experiences of having family members with epilepsy and how any treatment should be supported.
“The horror of parents not having alternatives is just a terrible thing,” Robinson said.
Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, said he was pleased lawmakers were open to a narrow use of the CBD oil without getting caught up in the larger debate over medical marijuana.
“This is going to help a lot of people whose lives are affected daily,” McKissick said.
Sponsor Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret, has repeatedly noted in legislative hearings that the bill doesn’t include what she calls “the M-word” because the marijuana plant has been altered so much to produce CBD that it’s legally considered hemp.
Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, noted Thursday that the psychoactive element in marijuana has been almost eliminated from the CBD plants.
Neurologists on the state registry would be responsible for bringing the CBD oil into the state to dispense. Pharmacies cannot dispense it because it isn’t on a U.S. Food and Drug Administration list of approved drugs.
Sen. Jim Davis, R-Macon, asked to add a 10-year sunset provision to the bill, noting that CBD oil is undergoing fast-track FDA clinical trials and would probably be approved in a few years.
“I’m kind of concerned we’re leaving this open-ended,” Davis said.
Apodaca responded that a sunset wasn’t necessary now because lawmakers could always add it once the FDA approves the treatment.
Charlotte Figi, girl with severe seizures that inspired CBD treatments, dies at 13
The Colorado teen’s use of CBD oil to try and ease her rare form of epilepsy drove other families to try CBD and medical marijuana to treat seizures.
Matt Figi hugs his once severely-ill 7-year-old daughter Charlotte, as they wander around inside a greenhouse for a special strain of medical marijuana known as Charlotte’s Web, which was named after Charlotte early in her treatment, in a remote spot in the mountains west of Colorado Springs, Colo. on Feb. 7, 2014. Brennan Linsley / AP file
Charlotte Figi, a Colorado teenager with a rare form of epilepsy who inspired the name of a CBD oil used in the hopes that it will treat seizures, died Wednesday afternoon. She was 13.
A Facebook message on behalf of the family read: “Charlotte is no longer suffering. She is seizure-free forever. Thank you so much for all of your love. Please respect their privacy at this time.”
Charlotte had Dravet syndrome, an extreme form of epilepsy. At age 5, she suffered as many as 300 grand mal seizures a week, used a wheelchair, went into repeated cardiac arrest and could barely speak.
Her mother, Paige Figi, began calling medical marijuana shops in Colorado after doctors had exhausted all other options. Charlotte’s symptoms largely disappeared after she began taking an oil infused with a strain of cannabis low in THC, the plant’s psychoactive ingredient, but high in the compound cannabidiol, or CBD.
The oil’s name, inspired by her story, was changed to Charlotte’s Web.
Charlotte’s success led other families with children suffering from seizures to move to Colorado, where marijuana was legalized much earlier than other states.
In a Facebook post last week, Paige Figi announced that Charlotte was in the hospital because of a virus.
“Most of the house recovered well from a month of virus but our little Charlotte hasn’t improved,” the post read. “She had a couple days where she seemed to turn the corner but then she took a dive. We used all of our tricks the past few days but nothing worked.”
In a post on Sunday, she said her daughter had been discharged, writing, “This kid. heh heh. she is one tough SOB.”
Figi did not reveal if Charlotte had the coronavirus.
Realm of Caring, a nonprofit organization founded by Figi, thanked Charlotte for dedicating her life to helping others.
“Charlotte’s story directly impacted thousands of families across the globe and has changed the face of cannabis in many ways,” the organization wrote on Facebook.
“Your work is done Charlotte, the world is changed, and you can now rest knowing that you leave the world a better place. With broken hearts, we cradle the Figi’s/Iafeliece’s in our thoughts and prayers. Thank you, Charlotte, for dedicating your life to the service of a greater good. We promise to carry on the mission,” it continued.