Two decades ago, in 1989, the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration rejected the findings of his agency’s chief administrative law judge who had ruled that marijuana has accepted medical value in the U.S. and should be rescheduled. In dismissing the judge’s decision the administrator stated that anyone who supported medical marijuana was perpetrating a “cruel hoax” on the American public.
Those words came back to me as I read the news of North Carolina’s medical marijuana law that was signed on July 3, 2014. North Carolina became the tenth state to enact the so-called “CBD only” medical marijuana law. (The other nine states are Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin.) While the intent of lawmakers may have been compassionate the result is, in my opinion, a cruel hoax.
These laws have tremendous appeal to the lawmakers. Pressure for passage of such laws has come from the parents of young children who are stricken with rare forms of epilepsy. When all conventional medications fail, and they often do, parents have found success with CBD oil, derived from the cannabis, or marijuana, plant. The results can be breathtakingly dramatic as you can see in this video. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=721753387847681&set=o.1423068877953424&type=3&theater
So in passing these bills lawmakers are showing their compassion for seriously ill, especially the young, while tackling the tricky political question of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. “But wait,” the lawmakers say, “we aren’t legalizing ‘pot’ we are legalizing CBD, one of the ingredients in marijuana. And CBD doesn’t get you ‘high’ so drug abuse is impossible.”
Okay, CBD doesn’t get the patient ‘high’ but CBD is just one of the ingredients in the cannabis plant and the North Carolina law, like several others, still prohibits growing marijuana to obtain the CBD. So, just how exactly are the North Carolina patients going to obtain this needy medication?
You might think these states could simply turn to those states which have legalized the entire plant for medicinal purposes and buy the needed medicine. Simple, right?
Wrong. Marijuana, on the federal level, is still illegal, still a Schedule I drug. That’s what the DEA administrator decided it should be when he over-ruled his chief administrative law judge back in 1989, calling anyone who promoted the medical use of marijuana a “snake oil salesman.” As long as marijuana remains in Schedule I it cannot be shipped inter-state. So the ten CBD-only states cannot simply import marijuana from states where it is already legal for medical purposes.
So, just where do those ten states propose to get their CBD-only supplies? Well, I’m not privy to all their plans but I think a little hint was dropped in the coverage of WBTV in Raleigh.
“For now, it’s not sure how natural CBD oils made from actual marijuana plants in Colorado will get to North Carolina. Until that’s figured out, legislators say a pharmaceutical company making a trial CBD oil, called Epidiolex, will be rolled out immediately. ‘
Oh, I see. We’re going to “immediately” roll out a new pharmaceutical drug that has not yet been approved by federal officials so that we do not have to grow a plant that has a 5,000 year history of medical use or adjust its current standing in the federal drug hierarchy.
But wait, there’s more.
“All kids who sign up for this trial will be part of a study. That data will then be used to learn more about how the medicine works best.”
Okay, so your child also needs to be part of a research study. Well, that may not have been what the parents’ wanted when they started lobbying for the bill but it looks like that may be the only way to obtain the legal CBD trial drug. Does this mean the children may be exposed to placebo doses of CBD? Will there be double-blind, randomized testing which guarantees that some children will not receive the real CBD?
Do you see why the expression “cruel hoax” may have come to mind?
Postscript: To the parents in these states — I am very happy that your state has enacted a law that recognizes your child’s need but the battle is not yet won. You cannot let your guard down or expect that bureaucrats will resolve all the problems. It was your voice and those of friends and activists that passed this law and you cannot go silent now.