Medical marijuana debate continues over legalizing plant or utilizing components

Breaking down medical marijuana's components

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - A recent University of Arkansas Poll shows that 51% of voters support Issue 6 which would legalize medical marijuana. In the midst of discussion over the drug, law makers and doctors are torn over whether the whole plant should actually be legalized or just certain compounds.

Samantha Smith is one citizen who hopes that Issue 6 passes. Her daughter has a genetic mutation that currently gives her anywhere from 2 to 20 seizures per day. If medical marijuana becomes legal, she hopes it can provide an cannabis-based oil to help.

"She can take a lot of medication and still have seizures,” said Smith. “There are other kids with her mutation who walk, are verbal."

Some lawmakers and doctors say legalizing marijuana would lead to substance abuse. Instead, they want to legalize only certain components of the drug, specifically Cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is one of 113 cannabinoids that are identified in cannabis.

“We need to squeeze all the medicinal value out of the plant, find the compounds that help patients, isolate those compounds," said Arkansas Surgeon General Dr. Greg Bledsoe.

While 25 states have legalized medical marijuana, 17 other states allow the use of low THC and high CBD. Currently at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, clinical testing is underway for a CBD oil that would reduce seizures for some patients with Tuberous Sclerosis.

“If you take CBD and know how much is being given to a patient, you can study the effect of that both from a safety and effective standpoint," said Dr. Jay Deshpande, Chief Clinical Officer at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

Children's Hospital stands against legalizing marijuana and hopes their clinical testing can provide a better alternative. David Couch, behind Issue 6, said that's not enough.

"CBD oil is just one part of the plant, there are other medical conditions that the plant itself is needed for," said Couch.

Smith said for some children, like her daughter, only an oil that also has a high level of THC would help.

"It works with some people with some kinds of epilepsy but with the intractable epilepsy it hasn't worked," said Smith.

State representative Dan Douglas is proposing a bill that would allow the use of high CBD and low THC. He says it would run in the 2017 session if Issue 6 does not pass Tuesday.


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