On April 16, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin signed into law a bill that legalizes the use of cannabidiol oil for children suffering from intractable epilepsy (a topic we’ve covered earlier here).
The oil—extracted from medical marijuana—contains a large concentration of cannabidiol (CBD) and a small amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Several states have legalized its use for epilepsy patients, and it has been shown to drastically reduce the number of seizures the children must endure.
In a statement reported by Channel 3000, the Governor made it clear that this law is very different from legalizing recreational marijuana: “It’s very controlled, from the examining board and oversight by pharmacists and physicians, and I think that’s important moving forward,” he said. “This is not in any way what we see with other laws across the country.”
The law’s narrow focus brings us to a problem pointed out by some parents; though it is now legal to use cannabidiol oil in Wisconsin (for patients suffering from epilepsy with written approval from their doctors), there is no legal way to obtain it. The state has not legalized growing medical marijuana within its borders, and Federal law does not allow anyone to legally transport marijuana products across state lines.
For these reasons, the bill has been called a placebo. Is that all it really is?
Access to Cannabidiol
Some websites have reported that CBD oil will be available within the next few months, and parents of epileptic children are looking forward to using it soon.
Though the bill does not allow production of CBD oil within Wisconsin, it does allow doctors to request an investigational drug permit from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). The state will also help with the request to improve the chances of a positive response. Once a doctor is approved, the state decides which pharmacies and doctors can dispense the oil. This is a process that could take some time.
It is also not clear how the oil will make it into the state.
For now, the only option that parents have is to travel to a state that provides CBD oil to non-residents and then carry it back with them. Their journey back home may involve traveling through states where possession is illegal. The process is impractical, and the Marijuana Policy Project has called it “unworkable for the limited population it’s meant to help.” By the time other means are available to obtain CBD, it may be too late for many children suffering seizures now.
Though the law is a step forward, it has also been pointed out that it only helps a very limited number of patients who can benefit from CBD oil and medical marijuana.
The Plight of Other Patients
“There are thousands of Wisconsinites we are leaving behind today, thousands of them, whose families are going out having to break the law to get marijuana so they can use it to deal with their cancer,” said Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) about the new law.
The Marijuana Policy Project estimates that the current set of bills can only benefit two percent of those whose doctors believe medical marijuana, with higher levels of THC, could help. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that medical marijuana derivatives help keep cancer in check, and a number of clinical studies are now supporting this notion.
However, new laws in many states leave these patients out in the cold.
Conclusion to Wisconsin’s Cannabidiol Bill
Wisconsin’s cannabidiol bill has been approved. Though the new law is heading in the right direction for those who need CBD oil, practical benefits are not available right now. It is legal to possess and use the oil, but there is no way to get it. Families may have to join many others who move to states, such as Colorado, where they can both legally obtain the oil and use it. The law also does not address the needs of many other patients who could benefit from CBD oil.