In May, we wrote about a Colorado-grown strain of low-THC cannabis being used to treat catastrophic epilepsy in children. While the strain—which has so little THC in it that it can’t get patients high—doesn’t work for everyone, its success in treating many severe seizure disorders has led to more than 100 families moving to Colorado to gain access to the strain, known as Charlotte’s Web. Although Charlotte’s Web is legal under Colorado law, it is still a federally illegal Schedule I drug; sending or transporting just a small amount across state lines—even to other states with legalized medical marijuana—qualifies as a federal drug trafficking offense that comes with a potential five-year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine.
A bill proposed in the House at the end of July, though, seeks to change that. Introduced by republican Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry, the Charlotte’s Web Medical Hemp Act of 2014 would change the federal government’s definition of marijuana to exclude strains that contain less that 0.3 percent THC (qualifying them as industrial hemp) as well as cannabidiol, or CBD, one of the 400-plus compounds found in cannabis, and the one believed to help control seizures. Charlotte’s Web regularly tests at less than 0.3 percent THC; its CBD to THC ratio is around 30:1.
Ten representatives—five republicans and five democrats (Colorado’s Ed Perlmutter is among them)—have co-sponsored the bill, which was referred to the house judiciary committee and the house committee on energy and commerce on July 28. According to the federal bill-tracking site, Govtrack.us, the Charlotte’s Web Medical Hemp Act of 2014 has an eight percent chance of making it out of committee and a three percent chance of being passed. Those odds sound dismal, but they’re actually just slightly below average: Only 11 percent of all bills make it out of committee and only three percent are passed. We’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on this one.
Follow senior editor Kasey Cordell on Twitter @KaseyCordell.