RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Stephen Carlin wept Wednesday after a House committee approved a measure to legalize hemp oil manufactured from a marijuana plant to treat people like his daughter, who suffers from a severe form of epilepsy.
Carlin's daughter, 5-year-old Zora, could be one of thousands of North Carolinians to use hemp oil extract to help subdue intractable epilepsy.
The bill would allow hemp oil extract taken from a marijuana plant to treat intractable epilepsy, a seizure disorder unresponsive to three or more treatment options. It would also prohibit doctors from being prosecuted for dispensing the medicine and would direct universities to research it.
Carlin, who lives in Clayton, helped draft the bill. He said he and his family have tried every kind of medication to treat their daughter, including potent 40 milligram doses of valium daily, which her body eventually became unresponsive to. Zora doesn't speak and she has such violent seizures she harms herself and has tried to rip off her skin, her father said.
"The medicines that we are giving her right now are ripping her apart," he said. "I'm asking you to please support this legislation I am on my knees for thousands of kids."
Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret sponsored the bill and says it is intended to be very narrow in who can use the oil. She says it will go through the House Finance Committee Thursday morning and be on the House floor in the afternoon.
"These children have been suffering for many years," she said. "Some of them have seizures up to 200 to 300 a week and their parents have to sit there and watch them go through it."
If the bill becomes law, Carlin says he will stay in North Carolina, otherwise he will move to Colorado to get treatment for Zora.
The marijuana extract under the bill would consist of less than .3 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive chemical found in a marijuana plant. It would include at least 10 percent cannabidiol by weight, a chemical compound in the marijuana plant more commonly used for medical treatments for people with epilepsy and Parkinson's disease.
"It would make a drug addict very disappointed if they got a hold of it," said McElraft.
Colorado has already started using a form of medical marijuana similar to the one proposed in the state, and looks like cough syrup, McElraft said.
To use the oil, a person or caregiver would have to register for a compassionate use registration card. The cardholder would have to be 18 years old. The patient would have to be a North Carolina resident and be examined by a neurologist who recommends hemp extract oil. The patient would also have to pay $50 the Department of Health and Human Services, apply for a permit and submit their contact information to a government database for patients who are using the hemp oil for medicinal purposes. The database would be accessible to law enforcement agencies.