Pennsylvania: GOP Lawmakers Balk On CBD-Only Medical Marijuana Bill


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Parents in Pennsylvania who want to treat their children's seizures with a marijuana derivative were hopeful after Governor Tom Corbett announced last month he could support a medical study of cannabidiol (CBD). But the program can't begin until the state's House Republican majority supports the move -- and timid GOP party leaders are opposing it, despite the fact that legislatures in states as conservative as Alabama and Mississippi have approved similar legislation.

A majority of GOP members of the House still oppose such a study, according to a spokesman,and don't support authorizing Gov. Corbett's plan to allow children with intractable seizures who are not helped by standard therapies to have supervised access to cannabidiol (CBD), a component of marijuana that does not produce a high, reports Karen Langley at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Republican state representatives said they believe the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) -- not the states -- should decide what is medicine, according to spokesman Steve Miskin, putting the lie to GOP claims of supporting "states' rights."

"That is where the majority of members of our caucus stand," claimed the apparently cold-hearted Miskin. "They do not believe the state should approve pot -- marijuana -- of any sort. At this moment there are no plans to move any type of legislation to legalize the use of any derivative of marijuana."

Besides the 22 states with actual medical marijuana laws, there are now eight states with laws allowing limited access to a cannabis derivative high in CBD and low in THC (the main compoiund which produces the high).

The "CBD-only" laws in Alabama, Iowa, Mississippi, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin limit the treatment to seizure disorders and related illnesses, while Florida's CBD law also allows cancer patients, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Kentucky's CBD law doesn't specify a medical condition.

An overwhelming 85 percent of Pennsylvania voters support allowing adults to use cannabis for medicinal purposes, with support at 78 percent or higher in every partisan, age and gender group, according to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted in February.

"The Governor wants to get this done," said Christine Cronkright, a spokesman for Gov. Corbett. "We are moving full steam ahead."

"One really important part of what we're trying to accomplish is some combination of compassionate care plus study," said Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Michael Wolf. "We don't really view this in the same way you would a traditional clinical trial. Our goal is to make sure that if these families want to work with us and are interested in pursuing this, they get the opportunity to get access to the extracts."

Wolf and other members of the Governor's staff have already approached Penn State Hershey Medical Center about participating in the program, according to Daniel A. Notterman, vice dean for research and graduate studies at the center. He said the center would only be interested in participating as part of a "standard clinical trial."

He said such a study will "need permission" from the state and federal governments, as well as funding and a "panel of experts" to design the study.

"That's going to take time," Notterman said. "I don't see this happening in less than a few months, just because it's going to require action at the state and federal levels and people to get together."

However, Dr. Notterman acknowledged the urgency of need for families. "I think everybody recognizes for the children and parents who have this problem even one day is too much," he said. "So we're all prepared to work as quickly as we can to do it."

Mark Knecht of Mechanicsburg -- whose 11-year-old daughter Anna has a seizure disorder -- said he believes families lobbying for cannabis can still change the minds of the House Republicans who are holding up the bill. "It's not like some crazy liberal agenda," Knecht said. "I'm a conservative, but when you realize what we're talking about, it's way less of a drug issue in relation to the stuff they're already on."

Knecht said Anna has been on 19 pharmaceutical drugs over her lifetime, including three that weren't yet approved by the FDA, highlighting the flimsy FDA excuse being used by Pennsylvania's Republican lawmakers.

"Our doctors are prescribing stuff to our kids that's not FDA-approved all the time, because they have nothing left," Knecht said. "There's nothing left in the drawer to try. That's why we're asking for the opportunity to do this."

The Truth About CBD

CBD 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, Kentucky and Florida.

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.