Parents of impacted children high-fived in the gallery Thursday as the North Carolina House approved a measure legalizing oil manufactured from a marijuana plant to treat people who suffer from a severe form of epilepsy.
The measure now moves to the Senate for approval.
The bill would allow cannabidiol extract from a medical marijuana plant to be sold and used used in the state to treat intractable epilepsy, a seizure disorder unresponsive to three or more treatment options. It would also prohibit doctors from being prosecuted for dispensing the medicine and would direct universities to research it.
Stephen Carlin, who lives in Clayton, helped draft the bill. He said he and his family have tried every kind of medication to treat their 5-year-old daughter, including potent 40 milligram doses of Valium daily, which her body eventually became unresponsive to. Zora doesn't speak and she has such violent seizures.
He father said she also harms herself and has tried to rip off her skin.
"Every time I hand her a pill, I feel like I'm handing her poison," Stephen Carlin said. "I feel like I might as well just give her rat poison."
The Carlins have tried 14 different medications and some only brought more pain. But CBD oil, which is derived from a strain of medical marijuana known as Charlotte's Web, is about 85 percent effective in treating those seizures.
The oil does not contain the part of marijuana that gets people high.
"This is not a pathway to anything else," Stephen Carlin said. "This is just something that's going to heal kids. There should be no reason they shouldn't pass it. If it doesn't, they're not looking at it."
Rep. Pat McElraft (R-Carteret) sponsored the bill and said it is intended to be very narrow in who can use the oil.
"I can't even get through presenting the bill in any of the committees without crying," McElraft said. "I see the torture in the parents' eyes."
If the bill becomes law, Carlin said he will stay in North Carolina, otherwise he will move to Colorado to get treatment for Zora.
The marijuana extract under the bill would consist of less than .3 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive chemical found in a marijuana plant. It would include at least 10 percent cannabidiol by weight, a chemical compound in the marijuana plant more commonly used for medical treatments for people with epilepsy and Parkinson's disease.
"It would make a drug addict very disappointed if they got a hold of it," McElraft said.
Colorado has already started using a form of CBD oil similar to the one proposed in the state, and it looks like cough syrup, McElraft said.
To use the oil, a person or caregiver would have to register for a compassionate use registration card. The cardholder would have to be 18 years old.
The patient would have to be a North Carolina resident and be examined by a neurologist who recommends hemp extract oil. The patient would also have to pay $50 to the Department of Health and Human Services, apply for a permit and submit their contact information to a government database for patients who are using the hemp oil for medicinal purposes. The database would be accessible to law enforcement agencies.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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