COLUMBIA - A Senate panel advanced a bill that would seek an exemption for a type of medical marijuana extract that helps those with severe forms of epilepsy.
The Medical Cannabis Therapeutic Treatment Research Act, sponsored by Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, was passed along to the full committee level Thursday morning by the Medical Affairs Subcommittee. The bill would carve out an exemption for Cannabidiol oil, which does not include the chemical THC, associated with the "high" effects of marijuana.
The panel heard from several Lowcountry residents on Thursday, including Dori Lovell of Summerville, whose grandson, 3-year-old Julian, could not get treatment in the Palmetto State. Lovell's daughter took Julian to Colorado.
Lovell made a tearful plea to the panel for the passing of the measure, adding the bill did not going far enough, and that it needs to be broader.
"It needs to include more than just epileptics," said Lovell after the meeting. But she also said the bill was a step in the right direction.
A similar bill is making its way through the House as well. Last week, a House subcommittee advanced a bill sponsored by Rep. Jenny Horne, R-Summerville, dubbed "Julian's Act," after Lovell's grandson. Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, also filed a broader bill last week that would offer patients the chance to be prescribed medical marijuana for severe illnesses, including cancer and multiple sclerosis.
CBD oil and medical marijuana treatment in general have caught on as stories of success from Colorado and a strain of marijuana known as "Charlotte's Web" have helped those with epilepsy. The bill calls for clinical trials of a CBD-based drug. The bill would also allow doctors to prescribe CBD oil pharmaceuticals.
"If I had known four years ago that I would be standing here defending any use of marijuana, I would've thought I lost my mind," said Lovell while speaking to the Senate panel. "I am convinced that this herb - this plant grown in the ground by the grace of God - is truly working miracles that modern medicine has not been able to do."
The panel also heard from retired veteran Jonathan Lubecky, a student at The Citadel who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and from a traumatic brain injury he sustained while serving in Afghanistan. Lubecky told the panel that because of his injury, he suffers from suicidal ideation, which means no matter how great his day could be going, thoughts of suicide still creep up in his mind.
Lubecky told the panel he takes about 35 pills a day. Though he no longer uses it, Lubecky said he tried marijuana in the past and it made his suicidal ideation disappear. He hopes CBD oil will help, but it was unclear whether he'd qualify under the exemption.
"I don't want to get high," he said. "I just want to not kill myself. It's that simple."
Leslie Jurado, a proponent of the bill, was also unsure whether her daughter, 11-year-old Isabel, would qualify under the exemption. Jurado, of Rock Hill, also believes the bill should be broader.
Isabel suffers from a progressive neurological degenerative disease, Jurado said. The pre-teen has about four debilitating seizures a month, which last longer than five minutes and can leave her sometimes unconscious for hours.
Jurado said she's a Christian and doesn't believe the passing of measures that would help children should split a community. She said it's about mercy and compassion.
"I've used my daughter's life to help other people," said Jurado as she held back tears. "I need somebody to help her."
Staff writer Jeremy Borden contributed to this story. Cynthia Roldan can be reached at 708-5891.