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Will North Carolina allow more people to use CBD oil? Committee OKs bill to expand use of compound found in marijuana

Will North Carolina allow more people to use CBD oil? Committee OKs bill to expand use of compound found in marijuana

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A bill to expand the use of medicinal CBD oil in North Carolina took a big first step last week.

N.C. Senate Bill 168 received recommendation from the Senate Health Committee. It has been forwarded to the Senate Judiciary Committee. If that panel recommends it, the bill would then go to the Senate Rules and Operations Committee.

State law passed in 2015 allows the use of CBD oil — cannabidiol, a compound found in marijuana — to be given to children with epilepsy.

What SB168 would do is allow CBD oil treatments for all individuals experiencing autism, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and mitochondrial disease.

The bipartisan bill has two key Senate leaders as primary sponsors in state Sens. Ralph Hise, R-McDowell, and Floyd McKissick Jr., D-Durham. State Sen. Paul Lowe, D-Forsyth, is a co-sponsor.

The same bill was not acted upon by the Senate Health Committee in 2017.

Both bills said the legislature has determined that current available treatment options “have been ineffective” for autism, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and mitochondrial disease.

“Hemp extract shows promise in treating these chronic conditions,” the legislation says.

Both bills require a neurologist to prescribe the oil, and the patient would have had not responded to at least three conventional treatments for the four conditions.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services would be required to keep a database of neurologists, caregivers and patients connected to medicinal use of CBD oil.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved CBD oil in the prescription medicine Epidiolex, used to treat a rare form of pediatric epilepsy. According to TheStreet.com, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration classified it as a Schedule 5 drug — defined as the lowest potential for addiction and abuse.

Marijuana has been legalized for medical use in 23 states, but Florida is the only Southern state that allows it. North Carolina is among 14 states that allow CBD oil for limited medical purposes. There are 10 states that permit all medicinal and recreation uses of marijuana.

On Feb. 13, Lowe introduced Senate Bill 58, which would make it legal to possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana for personal use.

However, SB58 would allow individuals to be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor if they possess more than 3 ounces of marijuana.

The bill was sent to the Senate Rules and Operations Committee and would go into effect July 1 if it passes the N.C. General Assembly and is signed into law by the governor.

A similar bill was introduced in the 2018 session, but was not heard in the Rules and Operations Committee. That version would have allowed a person to legally possess up to 4 ounces of marijuana.

Lowe said he introduced both bills in an effort “to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. This is heading in the right direction.”

“There are new legislators with differing outlooks on a lot of legislation being reintroduced,” he said, “so now let’s see if the legislation gets a different reception.”

Currently, possession of one-half of an ounce or less of a controlled substance is a Class 3 misdemeanor. That is punishable by up to 20 days of active jail time — which typically is suspended — or a requirement of community service.

By contrast, a Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by up to 120 days of an active sentence.

The bill would exempt up to 3 ounces of marijuana from being considered a controlled substance.

The bills also would raise the weight of marijuana an individual can possess from 1.5 ounces to a pound before it qualifies as a Class 1 felony, which is punishable by an active sentence of up to five months.

The bills would leave the amount of marijuana unchanged at no more than one-twentieth of an ounce to avoid a Class 1 misdemeanor, and no more than three-twentieths of an ounce to avoid a Class 1 felony.

With respect to previous convictions, the bill allows individuals found guilty of possessing 3 ounces or less of marijuana to file a petition in Superior Court in the county in which they were convicted. There would be a $100 cost to file the petition.

rcraver@wsjournal.com 336-727-7376 @rcraverWSJ

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