State Sen. Daylin Leach of Pennsylvania has been introducing medical marijuana bills over the last few sessions, all to no avail. His latest effort, Senate Bill 770, languishes in committee, unlikely to be heard. In response, Senator Leach is revising his attack by abandoning efforts to help patients in need of the THC in cannabis in favor of pushing a bill to legalize only CBD-rich cannabis for medical use.
The awareness of high-CBD cannabis extracts has grown thanks to being prominently featured in Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s "Weed" documentary for CNN. Little Charlotte Figi, who suffers from a rare form of severe epilepsy called Dravet’s Syndrome, went from 300 seizures a day to a mere one or two a week once she began using a cannabis oil derived from plants high in CBD and low in THC. Now parents in Pennsylvania are clamoring for this miracle cure and Senator Leach is introducing a bill today that would legalize it, but not traditional THC-containing pot.
The lack of THC in these CBD oils means no “high” for the patient, which is the primary reason why it is gaining so much political traction. In Utah, the top pediatric oncologist explained, “The substance is not psychoactive or hallucinogenic, it contains less THC than do other materials that can be legally purchased in Utah, and it has absolutely no abuse potential.”
Utah State Rep. Gage Froerer is leading the fight to import high-CBD oil from Colorado into Utah, which he refers to by the name “Alepsia” to further disassociate it from marijuana. How ironic, considering “marijuana” was the name used in the 1920s and 1930s to disassociate it from popular cannabis medicines. He believes this form of medical marijuana is legal right now in Utah, since it contains such low THC it is legal hemp oil. As the Colorado grower of these high-CBD plants explained at a press conference, “The only difference with our product Alepsia is it actually has lower levels of THC than products on food store shelves.”
Meanwhile, Big Pharma is jumping on the Alepsia bandwagon as well. GW Pharmaceuticals just won approval of its “Epidiolex” product -- its version of Alepsia -- as an “orphan drug” for treatment of Dravet’s Syndrome. GW is already conducting human trials for Sativex, its whole plant extract for treatment of multiple sclerosis. It is only a matter of time before these pharmaceuticals gain wider acceptance and seizure patients have no politically tenable reason to fight for access to the plant itself.