A bill that would allow children with severe epilepsy to obtain an oil extracted from marijuana to help control their seizures passed the S.C. House of Representatives on Wednesday, with provisions that would let parents possess and purchase the oil.
The bill is broader than its counterpart that passed in the state Senate last week, allowing parents to leave the state to obtain cannabidiol and bring it back to South Carolina, Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort, said.
Erickson, one of the bill's original co-sponsors, said CBD oil is not classified as marijuana under the new bill, which would make it legal for parents to possess it in the state. The bill, which passed the House by a 90-24 vote, will go through a third, procedural reading Thursday before moving to the Senate.
A bill with similar provisions authored by Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, passed the Senate unanimously last week and has a hearing scheduled Thursday in the House's Judiciary Committee, Erickson said. Davis' bill would allow doctors and physicians to prescribe the oil, which has no psychoactive properties. It also calls for clinical trials at the Medical University of South Carolina and other hospitals.
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Erickson and Davis began working on the bills after meeting Beaufort resident Harriett Hilton, whose 6-year-old granddaughter, Mary Louise Swing, has intractable epilepsy. Mary Louise takes two medications but still suffers between 20 and 60 seizures an hour. Without medication, she might suffer as many as 200 seizures an hour, her mother, Jill Swing, said.
"Harriett is a force," Erickson said. "I needed to be educated, and she sent me countless emails with information. It was a special moment to share that victory with her today."
Rep. Jenny Horne, R-Summerville, who sponsored the bill, said that even though some in state law enforcement object, CBD oil offers hope to those who need the medicine. "It can be a miracle drug," she said.
Jill Swing said the House bill has the potential to help her daughter. However, she worries that if her daughter were one of the lucky few to be accepted into a clinical trial, she could receive a placebo instead of the drug.
Thousands more need the oil than clinical trials could treat, she said.
"I'm far more optimistic than I was a year ago," Swing told The (Charleston) Post and Courier.
House and Senate leaders will have to agree on the bills' differences for the measure to move forward.
Federal law bans all forms of medical marijuana. If Horne's bill passes, Swing could get the extract from Canada or overseas. But purchasing it would still be illegal under federal law.
Hilton said the bill's passage Wednesday was a "huge step for South Carolina," but she was still concerned about how to obtain the oil.
"There's still a question of how to purchase it," she said. "We're not looking for something made in a bathtub. It has to be monitored, tested, safe and reliable. In states like Colorado where it's legal, there might be laws preventing its sale. It's going to take some research to see."
The (Charleston) Post and Courier contributed to this report.
Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.
- Amended cannabidiol oil bill passes SC Senate, moves to House, March 26, 2014: http://bit.ly/1j1hMw2