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Altering rules on cannabidiol therapies.

The legalization of medical marijuana to treat various ailments has been a hot-button issue in a growing number of states in recent years. But the debate about cannabidiol, derived from marijuana plants, is just warming up.

Cannabidiol, commonly referred to as CBD, is an oil extracted from cannabis. It contains little, if any, THC (the psychoactive component that causes a marijuana "high") and is commonly used to manage rare, treatment-resistant forms of epilepsy, among other debilitating conditions. Parents of some affected children say they have seen a dramatic reduction in the number of development-stunting seizures their sons or daughters suffer after beginning a CBD regimen.

Paige Figi's daughter, Charlotte, suffers from an uncommon form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome, which affects about 1 in 30,000 children. Charlotte had more than 300 seizures a week before her CBD treatment began. She now suffers only two seizures per month, says Figi, who lives in Colorado. Though research is lacking, scientists suspect that CBD dampens the excessive electrical and chemical activity in the brain that causes seizures.


"Charlotte's Web" is a proprietary strain of cannabis named after Charlotte and used specifically to make CBD. The strain has very little TFIC--less than 0.3 percent-- though other strains may also be used to make concentrated products. Charlotte's Web is not widely available; most dispensaries choose not to stock it because of its limited appeal in the adult-use retail market.

The problem is, as a cannabis derivative, the oil extracted from any cannabis plant falls under the same legal restrictions as marijuana flower. By federal law, it is considered a Schedule I controlled substance, with no medical value, and cannot be prescribed.

Because Colorado has a comprehensive medical marijuana program, Figi can legally purchase CBD products. In most other states, the substance is still illegal. Fifteen states have Charlotte's Web laws (some of which may not yet be operational) that allow families to acquire and use CBD without fear of prosecution. But in a number of those states, legal clarification is still needed. The laws protect people who possess or use CBD products from prosecution for marijuana possession and use, but the state may not provide a clear way to produce or purchase the products in-state. This means a person could potentially break another state's law by removing the products from that state.

Six more states have Charlotte's Web legislation in the works, as does Congress.

The Figis have found themselves unwittingly active in the fight to allow families access to CBD treatment, which they say has more effectively managed Charlotte's condition than conventional treatments. Charlotte's mother stresses the difference between CBD and medical marijuana. "I don't even say marijuana," she says. "What we are talking about is so different." Meanwhile, cannabis-based pharmaceuticals are already in use in Europe and are undergoing clinical trials in the U.S.

Those opposed to legalizing medical marijuana may see providing safe, legal access to cannabidiol products as an acceptable alternative. In the meantime, the conversation about it continues.

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Title Annotation:Trends
Author:Toth, Zita
Publication:State Legislatures
Date:Sep 1, 2015
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