Pubdate: Mon, 30 Jun 2014
Source: Denver Post (CO)
Copyright: 2014 The Denver Post Corp
Author: John Ingold
Page: 1A


Spurred by the stories of epileptic children being treated in 
Colorado with cannabis oil, lawmakers across the country this year 
have made a dramatic change in how they talk about marijuana.

Thus far, nine states have passed laws legalizing either the use of 
non-psychoactive marijuana extracts for medical treatment or the 
study of such products. The slate of states - Alabama, Florida, Iowa, 
Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin 
- - reads in part like a list of states previously most resistant to 
changes in marijuana laws.

In another two states, Missouri and North Carolina, the legislatures 
have passed bills that need only a signature from the states' 
respective governor.

Advocates both for and against changes to marijuana policies continue 
to debate whether the laws will have any practical impact. But the 
new laws represent an ongoing rebellion of states from the federal 
government's current position that marijuana has no accepted medical use.

"I think it validates this as medicine," said Paige Figi, one of the 
founders of the Realm of Caring, which gained fame in a pair of CNN 
documentaries for producing non-psychoactive marijuana oil.

Figi's daughter, Charlotte, suffers from severe epilepsy, but she has 
received relief by using an extract made from marijuana plants that 
is high in a chemical called CBD and low in the psychoactive 
component of marijuana, THC. The most famous variety of marijuana 
from which the oil is made, Charlotte's Web, is named after Charlotte Figi.

"It's very important, these little baby steps with CBD bills," said 
Paige Figi, who has testified in support of several of the bills.

Research in works

Conclusive research on the efficacy of CBD to treat epilepsy or other 
conditions is still in the works, but its potential has generated 
tremendous interest among parents whose children's seizures are not 
controlled by current medicines. Hundreds of families have moved to 
Colorado for the oil, which is currently available only through the 
state's medical marijuana system.

While all of the new laws across the country embrace the possible 
therapeutic use of CBD, they vary widely in the details. Laws in 
Florida and the pending bill in Missouri would allow CBD-rich 
marijuana to be grown in those states. Others legalize possession of 
CBD but don't specify a source. Some require universities to produce 
or supply CBD, while others - such as Alabama's - allow only research programs.

Those limitations mean traditional marijuana reformists have kept the 
laws at arm's length, worried about forestalling bigger changes while 
simultaneously supporting the sentiment behind the laws.

"The bills are so limited and drafted in a way as to likely be 
practically and legally impossible to implement and therefore will be 
symbolic only," Tamar Todd, a senior staff attorney with the Drug 
Policy Alliance, wrote in an e-mail.

Figi, who said she supports broader medical marijuana legalization, 
said the laws could be a "stepping-stone" to laws that would allow 
treatment for more conditions.

Controlled trials

Those opposed to medical marijuana legalization have likewise 
approached the bills with ambivalence. Kevin Sabet, who works with 
the national group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said no one wants 
to keep parents from accessing treatment that may help their 
children. But, he said, the new laws may offer false hope to patients 
and said the safer solution is for federal regulators to allow more 
controlled trials of marijuana-derived pharmaceuticals.

One such trial has about 300 patients across the country. A 
preliminary study of a handful of those patients suggested a CBD 
medicine could be effective in treating seizures - similar to other 
surveys that have found many, but not all, patients using CBD-rich 
marijuana like Charlotte's Web have seen a benefit.

"Simply saying we can solve the issue by passing legislation allowing 
one to go to Colorado, buy CBD from who knows where, and come back to 
your home state is not a sustainable solution," Sabet wrote in an e-mail.

Federal officials appear to have taken notice of the new debates 
about marijuana as medicine. In addition to authorizing the trial, 
the Food and Drug Administration has recently begun the first step in 
evaluating whether marijuana should be placed in a less-restrictive 
category of drugs, an FDA official told members of a congressional 
committee this month.

Marijuana is currently a Schedule I substance, meaning it is not 
considered to have any medical use and research on it is difficult.

Figi said the need for high-CBD treatment is urgent, citing the more 
than 9,000 names on a wait list for Charlotte's Web. The Realm of 
Caring plans to produce more oil this year under the Colorado 
Department of Agriculture's hemp program. That's possible because the 
program defines hemp - the taxonomic twin of marijuana - only as low in THC.

Because hemp has fewer restrictions than marijuana, Figi said the 
Realm of Caring might be able to send Charlotte's Web oil to patients 
in states with CBD laws, greatly reducing the wait list.

"We do believe it will be shippable," she said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom