Missourians whose epilepsy isn’t relieved by other treatments could start taking a cannabis extract under legislation approved Thursday by the state House.
The measure would allow use of a “hemp extract” containing little of the chemical that causes marijuana users to feel high and larger amounts of a chemical called cannabidiol, or CBD. Supporters contend CBD oil could be effective in preventing seizures.
“I want to give hope to the children of Missouri who are suffering from intractable epilepsy that they can stop having seizures and live a healthy, normal life,” said sponsoring Rep. Caleb Jones, R-Columbia.
About a dozen states have considered legislation seeking to allow use of CBD oil for patients with seizures. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation last week, and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signed a bill allowing the University of Alabama at Birmingham to study the marijuana extract while giving participants legal protection from state criminal charges.
There has been particular attention paid to oil from the marijuana strain called Charlotte’s Web that was bred for an epileptic patient in Colorado. It is high in CBD and has little or no psychoactive effects. There is a waiting list, and patients must live in Colorado where marijuana is legal. Families have moved to the state to gain access to it.
Missouri’s legislation would allow use of “hemp extract” composed of no more than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and at least 5 percent CBD. Patients or their parents would need a state-issued registration card, and it only could be used after a neurologist has determined a patient’s epilepsy isn’t responding to at least three treatment options.
Growers would need to be a nonprofit organization and licensed by the Missouri Department of Agriculture. The state could issue a maximum of two licenses, though each grower could operate up to three centers for distributing CBD oil.
The measure calls for waste hemp to be destroyed, recycled or donated for research by state agriculture officials or universities. It could not be used for commercial purposes. State agriculture officials would develop rules for licensing and security.
House members approved the bill 139-13, and it now moves to the state Senate. The measure would take effect immediately if Gov. Jay Nixon signs it into law.
Earlier this week, a Senate committee endorsed separate legislation that would allow use of medical cannabinoids for conditions such as cancer, glaucoma, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and chronic or debilitating conditions that produce severe pain or seizures. The medical products could be oils, tonics, ointments or be ingestible but not able to be smoked. Patients would need a written certification from a doctor and a state-issued card.
“It helps a lot of people. There is no drug that I should be prohibited from prescribing for my patients if it would make their life better,” said Republican Sen. Rob Schaaf, who is a physician.
Sen. Gary Romine supported the measure and said he hopes cannabis extracts could help his 10-year-old granddaughter who has a medical condition that causes her to have seizures.