Legalizing medical marijuana: Where do NC, SC stand?

Lawmakers back medical marijuana
Updated: Mar. 11, 2014 at 11:30 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The push to legalize "Charlotte's Web", a strain of medical marijuana in liquid form given to children suffering from pediatric epilepsy, is increasing in both North and South Carolina.

Makers of the drug say this particular strain can't get you high.  Parents agree, and are uprooting their lives in the Carolinas to move to Colorado, where it's legal, to get it for their children.

WBTV has been investigating this drug for weeks.

We found politicians – both Democrat and Republican – who say they're advocates.  We couldn't find any politician or group saying they're flat-out against oils high in CBD.

"You can't find the other side, because there is no other side," says North Carolina State Representative Kelly Alexander, a Democrat from Mecklenburg County.

A Republican State Senator from South Carolina says the same thing, a bit differently.

"It doesn't really fit into a pigeon hole in terms of 'this is what Democrats' and 'this is what Republicans' are for," says Tom Davis.  "I think it's immoral to not allow it."

How does "Charlotte's Web" not get you high?  The answer is in how it's grown.  Marijuana has two main ingredients.  THC – the stuff that gives you that euphoric "stoned" feeling – and CBD – the stuff that can be therapeutic.  Growers of this "Charlotte Web" strain have taken most of the THC out and created a plant really high in CBD.  Parents who have their kids on it say it shows great results.

Problem is, there's no real study to prove it.

But the anecdotal stories are enough for Senator Davis.  Last week Davis introduced a bill to legalize medicines high in CBD oils.

"One of our jobs as lawmakers, I think, is to explain exactly what CBD oil is," he said.  "It has no THC. It doesn't get you high. It's got no psychoactive components. It's a chemical that happens to be derived from a cannabis plant.  That's it.  Why shouldn't we be talking about this?"

Similarly in 2013, Representative Alexander introduced a medicinal marijuana bill to North Carolina.  At the time he got laughed at and the bill shut down.

"Initially they thought I'd gone off the deep end and was crazy," he says.  "But as time has moved forward, I think that's changed."

Alexander plans on introducing a new bill in May, within the first 3 days of this year's General Assembly session.  He says it's "inevitable" North Carolina medical marijuana law will eventually change.

"We shouldn't have a situation where citizens of North Carolina feel that they have to relocate to Colorado in order to get a legal treatment for their kids," he says.  "That makes no sense at all.  Plus, change is going on all over the place.  My God, even in the south. Florida is talking about it. There's movement in Georgia and I believe Alabama."

And, as we mentioned, South Carolina.  We were with Senator Davis last week when he introduced his bill to the State House.

"I am determined to see this thing through," he said.  "It's not about headlines.  It's not about going in and staking out a political position for rhetoric purposes.  It's about providing relief to children who are suffering horribly."

South Carolina state Senator Lindsey Graham, a well known conservative, agrees.

"I'm against legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes," Graham said.  "But when it comes to medicinal marijuana and this oil, I think politicians should embrace what makes sense.  When it comes to issues like this, I don't want to be academic in thought.  This is about people. This is about families with sick children.  Why should someone in my position get in the way of helping a child, if you can reasonably and logically do it?"

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