Editor’s Note: A bill introduced by Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) in February that would revise South Carolina’s Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Act of 1980 to create a research program allowing Cannabidiol (CBD) oil to be used solely as an anti-seizure medication has cleared the Senate Medical Affairs Committee and is scheduled to go to the Senate floor this week. Under the proposed legislation, the Medical University of South Carolina would begin strictly controlled clinical trials using CBD, and only patients participating in those trials would be eligible to receive the drug. Read more about this and other proposed medical marijuana legislation in S.C. here.
In considering what conditions medical marijuana can be used to treat, the state of South Carolina has consistently turned a blind eye to people suffering from neuropathy (nerve pain) due to failed back surgeries. Marijuana and its derivatives have been shown to ease nerve pain for those with spinal problems, but examples like mine continue to get swept under the rug.
When I first injured my back, unfortunately I had a surgeon who should have retired years before I went to see him. He left me permanently disabled by damaging nerves during surgery. An EMG was performed to find the extent of the nerve damage, and I scored a 4 out of 5 on all of the nerve conduction tests. Fast forward 8 years, and I was down to a 2.5 and 3 on those scores, and I had also lost 4 and 5 inches circumference of my legs due to atrophy. If our laws were different, the nerve damage would be reduced short term and would have allowed me to work longer and prepare better.
People with nerve pain and numbness are often given the same medications as those with epilepsy. By allowing people with nerve issues access to the same cannabis oil that may be made available to epilepsy and other seizure disorder patients, untold numbers of people who are out of work across the country due to back/spinal pain could return to work. But the way the bill is currently written, those with nerve problems will not qualify for the clinical trials. Their conditions will end up getting worse as atrophy sets in to the legs and muscle tissue wastes away. The damage will become permanent, and more people will end up on Social Security Disability Insurance for life.
Also, those in SC government opposed to the CBD bill assume that there will be social abuse of cannabis oil, even though it does not contain THC (the ingredient in marijuana that gives people a high). Ignorance becomes the problem when you allow politicians dictate how a physician can administer prescriptions. Politicians, most of whom do not have medical degrees, are writing laws that prevent doctors from utilizing all of the resources that are available to them. This is what needs to change. Politicians should not be allowed to dictate to doctors how medicine can be used.
Surfside Beach, S.C.
MRS. LAZ SEZ
Thank you for coming forward to tell your story.
I, too, suffer from nerve pain due to injury and surgery, so I know firsthand what you are experiencing. That is one of the reasons why I am following the medical marijuana debate so closely. I support using marijuana and its derivatives to treat any condition that peer-reviewed medical research has shown will be helped by such drugs. Current treatments are inadequate for so many people who suffer from chronic pain, and even when treatments do work, some – such as prescription opiates – have horrible side effects that include incapacitation and addiction.
I understand your frustration about the restrictions imposed by the CBD oil bill in its current form, but as long as marijuana remains classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic by the federal government, the only way those who use it can be assured safety from federal prosecution is to do so in a manner approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The only approved use for CBD at this point is for seizure disorders, and doctors who prescribe it for other conditions risk incurring criminal charges and losing their licenses, while patients risk criminal charges as well. States that have legalized medical marijuana in a broader manner are taking a chance that the feds will choose not to prosecute users for the possession of what remains a controlled substance under federal law.
Under the medical doctrine of “compassionate use,” however, some patients can become eligible to use a medication that has not gained FDA approval outside of a clinical trial if they don’t qualify for a trial or if approved treatments haven’t helped their conditions. It is my hope that if the CBD oil bill passes, compassionate use programs can be established to help those who are suffering from conditions other than seizure disorders.
In the socially conservative Palmetto State, the legalization of marijuana for medical use will be fought one small battle at a time. Using CBD oil for seizure disorders is the first step in that battle, and I do think it is a winnable one. I agree with you, however, that the scope must eventually be expanded to include the multiple conditions that cannabis is known in the medical community to effectively treat. In the meantime, I hope that you can find a compassionate use program to help treat your condition if the CBD oil bill passes.
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