Families affected by a disease called intractable epilepsy may soon experience some relief, after a bill, HB 1220, legalizing the use of hemp oil as a treatment passed the Senate Rules committee on Wednesday and now heads to the Senate floor. It passed the House with an overwhelming majority.
Currently, possession of marijuana in the form of hemp extract is a criminal act. The House bill would authorize neurologists registered with the Intractable Epilepsy Alternative Treatment Pilot Study to dispense hemp extract acquired outside North Carolina to treat children with intractable epilepsy.
Bill sponsor Rep. Pat McElraft, a Republican from Emerald Isle, said children who suffer 100 to 200 seizures each week and have been reliant on highly toxic psycotrophic drugs could benefit from the hemp extract.
The main purpose of the bill, she said, was to allow families who have gone to Colorado to procure the hemp extract to come back to North Carolina and legally continue the treatment.
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The language of the bill specifically dictates that the substance is to be used exclusively for treating intractable epilepsy. Marijuana is never mentioned.
“You could drink the entire bottle of this and never get high,” McElraft said. “This is only a medicine for a child.”
The bill also encourages the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University and Wake Forest University to research hemp oil, which is extracted from marijuana plants. It was later amended to include East Carolina University.
Steve Carlin, whose daughter suffers from Intractable Epilepsy, asked the committee to give the bill a favorable vote. The former police officer said there was no potential for abuse of the hemp extract.
“I’m on my knees here today, begging you to save our children,” Carlin said.
Before the vote, Sen. Tom Apodaca gave a misty-eyed testimonial in support of the bill, saying, as a parent, he would do anything to spare his own child from suffering from intractable epilepsy.
“If I can do anything to help any parent or child who’s experienced that nightmare and what they go through every week, we’re going to do it,” Apodaca said.
In an interview after the meeting, Apodaca said he didn’t think it was a question of whether the bill would pass in the Senate, but instead whether it would pass unanimously. He said it would probably be signed into law by the end of this session.