The United States House of Representatives recently introduced a bill that would legalize a strain of medical marijuana oil, called “Charlotte’s Web,” that is currently in use in Colorado to treat patients with severe epilepsy.
Specifically, the Charlotte’s Web Medical Hemp Act of 2014 seeks to exclude therapeutic hemp and cannabidiol—also known as CBD, a non-psychoactive compound in cannabis that is used for medical purposes—from the definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act, which would legalize the usage of both across the U.S.
Named after Charlotte Figi, a 7-year-old girl diagnosed with Dravet syndrome, Charlotte’s Web was created in Colorado Springs by crossbreeding a strain of marijuana with industrial hemp. Her case was highlighted in an in-depth story by Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN in 2013. This has led to hundreds of families moving to Colorado to access Charlotte’s Web, which is low in THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis, but high in CBD.
Charlotte’s family is using the strain to treat Charlotte’s acute seizures, of which it was reported she would have hundreds weekly, and say it has greatly helped to eliminate them. Dravet syndrome, also known as Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy, is a rare form of epilepsy that begins in infancy and is characterized by prolonged seizures, behavioral and developmental delays, growth and nutrition issues and chronic infections.
The Stanley brothers, the creators of Charlotte’s Web, founded the The Realm of Caring Foundation to help parents who cannot afford the treatment, but because CBD is still illegal under federal law, they are only able to provide the strain in Colorado.
Supporters of the Act argue that a current, major issue is that families from outside Colorado pursuing the treatment are forced to move from their homes or break up their families to do so when, for example, only one parent can move with a child to access the treatment.
Additionally, though medical and recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado, growers and users are still subject to potential federal charges. Parents and children also cannot carry or administer Charlotte’s Web in public schools that receive federal funding due to the federal Drug Free Schools Act. Changing the definition of marijuana to exclude Charlotte’s Web may change this prohibition.
The Act, if passed into law, would allow the Charlotte’s Web strain to be distributed throughout the United States, and would open the way for similar strains to be created throughout the country. Currently there are several additional new strains being touted as “medicinal” for a variety of health issues including ADHD and autism. Furthermore, a synthetic version of THC has been exempt from the Schedule I definition of cannabis since 1986.
Currently, 11 states have legalized CBD for limited medical use or research, while 23 states have legalized medical marijuana. However, these legalization efforts have not changed federal law.
The introduction of Charlotte’s Web Medical Hemp Act, sponsored by Reps. Scott Perry, Steve Cohen and Paul Broun, followed a vote by the House in May to restrict the Drug Enforcement Administration from targeting medical marijuana operations that are legal under state law.
Many patients being treated with Charlotte’s Web in Colorado are young children. For more information on the topic, please refer to a previous post about marijuana and schools.
If you have any questions about the Charlotte’s Web Medical Hemp Act or issues surrounding marijuana legalization in Colorado, please give us a call.