CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) In February we began investigating CBD oils, a strain of medical marijuana shown to have great results with people battling epilepsy. In early July, Governor Pat McCrory signed a bill making the medicine legal in North Carolina. The bill becomes law October 1st.
A month out from that deadline, we’ve discovered possible obstacles in getting CBD oils to kids whose parents desperately want to try it.
“CBD oils is it for us,” says Abby Childers, a Charlotte mom. “My 5-year-old Bethany has brain damage, a form of cerebral palsy and intractable epilepsy. We’ve looked into it – brain surgery is not an option. She’s already on 16 medications. CBD oils are our last hope. I rejoiced when I watched the Governor sign the law.” She sighs. “But now I’m worried.”
The new law states all CBD oils – called “hemp oils” in the legislative wording – must be doled out through pilot studies at four medical facilities. Those four hospitals are: UNC, Duke, Wake Forest and ECU.
“We’re in Charlotte,” Childers said. “It’d be ideal to have a local hospital here involved. We can drive, but what are we supposed to do every time there’s a major seizure or issue? Airlift her to Duke? That could be three times a week.”
Abby also said there’s an issue of supply and demand. So many states have implemented laws to use CBD oils that the few places in Colorado making it – one being “Realm of Caring” which WBTV toured earlier this year – don’t have enough to send everywhere.
Lastly, Childers says there’s the obstacle of ever-evolving laws on how to ship forms of marijuana across state lines.
“It’d be easier if we could just cultivate it here,” she says.
Again, North Carolina law gives the Department of Health and Human Services until October 1st to sort out details. In back and forth emails with DHHS, the state department said it doesn’t yet have specifics and it’d be “premature to comment”.
“Our best update is that the Department is currently in the process of drafting temporary rules,” said DHHS spokesman Kevin Howell. “This is an ongoing process with much more work to be performed.”
That has Childers worried.
“We’re all waiting under their cloud of what they’re going to do,” she said. “Who knows what they’re going to come up with. They could decide to implement a process that blocks out Abby from getting the medicine altogether. I just don’t know.”
NC Representative Pat McElraft from Carteret County who originally wrote and sponsored the CBD oil bill, asks for patience.
“It is coming,” she said. “I know when you have a child who is having all those seizures it is very hard. It is hard to have patience. But it is coming.”
What does she say about the obstacle of shipping forms of marijuana?
“I think that’ll be worked out,” she replied. “I know the Feds have a bill that will open borders and allow transport from state-to-state without DEA interference for CBD oils. I am waiting to see exactly how that will work.”
Separately, McElraft said as discussions carry on about how to get the natural form of the medicine to North Carolina and distributed through pilot studies at the four hospitals, she has been in touch with GW Pharmaceutical. The company has made a pill form of CBD oils, called Epidiolex. It is currently in clinical trials. McElraft says because North Carolina passed its new law, our state will now be included in these trials. McElraft says at least 75 kids will be put on Epidiolex in these trials to see how it works.
“Could be more than 75,” said McElraft. “Depends how many qualify for the trials – the GW Pharmaceutical studies are specific to kids with Dravets or LGS.”
Childers says her daughter Bethany can’t get on the pharmaceutical clinical trials because she doesn’t have one of those two specific illnesses.
“She ‘just’ has epileptic seizures,” Childers said. “The bill signed into law by the Governor includes all people with intractable epilepsy. Bethany is included in our law, but not included in the pharmaceutical clinical trials.”
McElraft says she’s aware of the distinction and planning to continue to meet with both GW Pharmaceuticals and the Department of Health and Human Services in coming weeks. She also wants to address her concern about CBD oils being marketed online. McElraft doesn’t want “faux” versions to be bought – she says she wants North Carolina to do it right and get the more pure versions here from Colorado.
Childers, a mother of two who says her family is the most important thing, says the whole process is hard, but she’s remaining positive.
“It’s trying,” she says. “But I’ll never give up for Bethany. Even if this law doesn’t work for us here in North Carolina and we have to uproot and move to Colorado, I’ll never give up. I know God has a plan for her.”
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