By Marti Maguire
RALEIGH N.C (Reuters) - North Carolina is on the verge of joining the wave of states to approve a form of medical marijuana as lawmakers voted to allow its limited use for treating seizures.
The Hope 4 Haley and Friends bill is named for 6-year-old Haley Ward of Newport, who suffers from multiple daily seizures. The measure passed unanimously in the state Senate on Thursday, having cleared the house last week, and now awaits the signature of Governor Pat McCrory, who has not taken sides on the issue.
In passing the law, North Carolina would join a handful of other states nationwide, including conservative southern states such as Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, to allow the use of a cannabis extract, cannabidiol (CBD), in certain circumstances.
A chemical found in marijuana plants, CBD has been shown in early studies to reduce seizures, particularly in children who suffer from epilepsy.
The medicine is gathered from cannabis plants genetically engineered to contain only tiny amounts of the compound THC, the component that causes marijuana to produce a high.
The narrowly tailored measure that passed on Thursday overcame early concerns it would open the door to legalizing other forms of the drug.
The bill authorizes the sale of CBD only to patients who suffer persistent seizures and must register with the state. It also calls for research into the drug’s effectiveness. Selected universities in the state would be allowed to grow cannabis for study.
“This is going to give hope to a lot of precious children who have been waiting a long time,” said bill sponsor state Representative Pat McElraft, a Republican. “This is not the camel’s nose under the tent.”
Parents offered emotional testimony as the bill went through legislative committees, citing CBD as a last hope for children who suffer sometimes dozens of seizures in a single day. Other medications, they said, have been ineffective with debilitating side effects.
“The medicines we’re giving her today are ripping her apart,” said Steve Carlin, whose daughter Zora, 5, has a rare form of epilepsy.
(Editing by David Adams and Gunna Dickson)