Submitted by steveelliott on Thu, 05/15/2014 - 17:53
- cannabis oil
- cbd only
- christopher shafer
- jay blanton
- karen skjei
- kentucky general assembly
- medical marijuana
- Medicinal Cannabis
- rita wooton
- university of kentucky
- university of louisville
- USA Today
By Steve Elliott
In the past few months, a wave of "CBD-only" marijuana oil bills has passed, particularly in more conservative states where an actual medical marijuana bill might have found it difficult going. But unfortunately, many of these hastily passed pieces of legislation were so poorly crafted as to help no patients at all for months, years, or maybe ever, and Kentucky's new law is one of those.
Rita Wooton of Louisville's story of her son Eli, who has frequent seizures, and the promise of CBD (cannabidiol) oil to treat it, helped convince the Kentucky General Assembly to pass the bill, reports Gregory A. Hall of the Louisville Courier-Journal. But now doctors and researchers are telling Wooton and other parents that it could take years to even begin trials treating children such as Eli with the oil.
"We're really, really heartbroken," Wooton said. "It's just really sad that everyone put that much time and effort and energy into it and now it's going absolutely nowhere."
"For people like us and Eli, who have intractable epilepsy, seizures that are nearly impossible to even control or get a handle on, our hope is gone," Wooton said.
Some of the many issues surrounding implementation of the bill include the availability of CBD oil, the possible need for FDA approval, and the expense of studies, which preliminary estimates indicate could be $10,000 per patient.
But some doctors hoping to conduct the trials are still hopeful.
"I am extremely excited about it," said pediatric epilepsy specialist Dr. Karen Skjei of the University of Louisville, citing anecdotal reports of the oil reducing seizures when traditional pharmaceuticals can't.
According to supporters, the oil can provide relief to children who have severe epilepsy. It contains low levels of THC, the main psychoactive component of cannabis. CBD isn't psychoactive and therefore doesn't get the kids high.
Senate Bill 124, sponsored by Sen. Julie Denton (R-Louisville), allows "trials" of the CBD oil at the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky's medical schools or through FDA trials. But passing the bill is "just the initial part of the puzzle," according to Dr. Christopher Shafer, who specializes in adult epilepsy at the University of Louisville.
"Dr. Skjei and I want this for our patients, probably, almost as badly as the patients want it themselves," Dr. Shafer said. "And it's really discouraging for us to not be able to tell them that we have it available. It's going to take some time."
"While there is certainly an interest in this initiative, there are significant issues that remain to be addressed," said spokesman Jay Blanton of the University of Kentucky. "Additional research, the securing of funding and support, as well as support from the appropriate regulatory body, all would be required before a trial could be conducted.
"That process could likely take months, if not years," Blanton said.
Currently, the oil isn't being legally manufactured in Kentucky, and shipping it across state lines violates federal law. Discussions are ongoing with one "West Coast businessman" about setting up a Kentucky dispensary, Skjei said.
"As of right now, there's really nowhere to get it," she said.
"I feel their desperation," Shafer said of the patients, adding he wishes he could start prescribing it tomorrow. "Everybody who asks me about it, I'm keeping a list and I have a long list already."
"I still have patients that are talking about moving to Colorado, because they understand it's going to be awhile before this is up and running," Skjei said.
What's Up With CBD?
Cannabidiol, or CBD as it's more popularly known, is the new darling of lawmakers in conservative states who sense the rising tide of popular support for medical marijuana -- and would love to appear to be "doing something" -- but lack the political courage or will to advocate for an actual medical marijuana law.
CBD is politically safe because, as a non-psychoactive component of cannabis, it doesn't get anyone high, and better yet, it helps to quell seizures of the kind often found in pediatric epilepsy. So the combination of "helping kids" and "it doesn't get you high" has proven an "in" for medical marijuana in what would otherwise have been quite forbidding places, such as the halls of power in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and now Kentucky.
The disquieting fact about these no-political-risk types of laws (Alabama's passed unanimously in both chambers, amidst much self-congratulation) is that (a) they are written so narrowly as to help only a handful of children, or perhaps none at all, according to some critics; and (b) all of the dozens of cannabinoids found in marijuana work most effective in a synergistic fashion, potentiating each others' medical benefits in what Dr. Sanjay Gupta has called the "Entourage Effect."
Additional important information of which the legislators seem to be unaware is that, as first reported on Toke Signals, it doesn't even have to be a high-CBD strain to treat pediatric seizures without getting kids high. THC which hasn’t been decarboxylated -- that is, THC acid (THCA) which hasn't been exposed to heat -- is also effective against seizures, and it isn't psychoactive, either.
That's important information for struggling parents who may not be able to afford the sky-high prices of CBD oil which are unfortunately occurring due to the media frenzy over cannabidiol; THC-rich strains of marijuana are much more affordable.