Standing before a panel of senators, Dori Lavelle of Summerville thought of her 3-year-old grandson who she said suffers daily seizures, and she wept.
Lavelle asked the senators to pass a bill that would legalize cannabis oil for use in treating those with epilepsy.
“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,” she said.
“But after researching and hearing stories of this miracle marijuana and CDB oil, 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.”
Minutes later Thursday, the panel advanced the bill to the full Senate Medical Affairs Committee. A similar bill, dubbed “Julian’s Act,” after Lavelle’s grandson, is advancing in the House.
The legislation would legalize cannabis or CBD oil, which doesn’t contain THC, the chemical in marijuana that gives users a high, for research and treatment of severe epilepsy. It would also permit doctors to write prescriptions and pharmacists to dispense the oil without breaking the law.
Sen. Tom Davis, a Beaufort Republican and chief sponsor of the bill, said he became aware of the oil when contacted by a constituent whose granddaughter suffers from severe epilepsy.
He said the girl can suffer as many as 100 seizures an hour. With conventional medications, he said, that number can be reduced to 20 to 30 seizures per hour.
“There is anecdotal evidence, if not conclusive clinical evidence, that CBD oil in liquid form dropped on the tongue can provide remarkable relief to those with intractable epilepsy,” he said.
Davis said there are two U.S. Food and Drug Administration trials taking place in New York and San Francisco with the oil.
“The preliminary, anecdotal evidence coming out of that is very positive,” he said.
In South Carolina, 104,000 people are diagnosed with epilepsy, and 2,100 new cases are diagnosed annually, Karen St. Marie, founder of South Carolina Advocates for Epilepsy, told senators.
Other states also are passing similar laws and Colorado already offers the oil. One mother told senators that she was considering moving there with her 6-year-old girl, who suffers from epileptic seizures, even though she would be leaving her husband and son in South Carolina.
Jonathan Lubecky, a 37-year-old retired sergeant and Iraq veteran who said he suffers from brain injury and post traumatic shock, told the senators that he would like access to the oil as well to fight his thoughts of suicide.
He said he takes 35 pills a day and has attempted suicide five times. He said he found some time ago that marijuana made his thoughts of suicide disappear, though he no longer takes it.
“I don’t want to get high,” he said. “I just don’t want to kill myself.”
However, he acknowledged afterward that the bill as written wouldn’t permit him access to the oil. He said he is hoping research trials in the future will permit use for conditions other than epilepsy.
Some medical speakers cautioned senators that the oil now has no uniform requirement for potency or purity, something that should be considered.
But there was near universal approval of its use for those suffering from extreme epilepsy.
Davis said on a spectrum of types of marijuana available for those suffering a variety of diseases, approval of the CBD oil would be considered conservative and restrictive.
“It is, admittedly, a baby step,” he said. “But I think it can provide real relief.”