When Wisconsin lawmakers hastily introduced and passed a bill authorizing the use of hemp oil containing cannabidiol for childhood seizures, whole plant cannabis advocates warned the bill language would only be symbolic. Now those advocates have been proven correct.
A Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article on Monday, June 16, “Law allowing marijuana derivative for treatment of seizures remains unused,” quoted bill sponsor State Rep. Robb Kahl (D-Monona) as saying, “It wasn’t going to be passed without ” adding the FDA requirement.”
According to the Journal-Sentinel, a spokeswoman for UW Health, Toni Morrissey, said “It’s really simple. It’s not FDA approved, so we’re not prescribing it.”
Sadly this was all predicted. The rush to jam through a very restrictive bill that left out 99.9% of those Wisconsinites who could benefit from cannabis therapy was akin to a stampede. I pointed all this out to Robb Kahl’s staffer myself shortly after the bill was signed into law.
Seasoned activists like myself, who worked to pass the Therapeutic Cannabis Research Act (TCRA) in 1982, knew from the start that the provision calling for FDA approval would render the bill symbolic just like the TCRA, which legalized medical pot for cancer and glaucoma patients.
The first federal medical marijuana patient, Robert Randall, came to Madison 35 years ago July 31, 1979 to lobby for the TCRA. Like the backers of the CBD hemp oil bill, I was thrilled when the TCRA finally passed in 1982 and expected to see my medicine.
This was part of the response I received May 3, 1982 from one David E. Joranson, Drug Abuse Specialist from the State of Wisconsin Bureau of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse to an inquiry about the TCRA after it became law April 21, 1982:
“Marijuana and THC have not yet been approved by the federal government for medical use. State laws do not alter this situation. Marijuana or the oral form of THC can only be obtained by patients who participate in federally approved research programs. The Food and Drug Administration approves lnvestigational New Drug applications (IND) for such research. Typically, a physician who is designated “principal investigator” prepares and administers a program of clinical research wherein some patients receive marijuana or THC and are carefully evaluated for the effectiveness and safety of the drug. I have enclosed a copy of an FDA approved application for glaucoma from the State of Washington for your information and so that you can get a better idea of what is involved. The formal application materials as well as further assistance in the federal application process can be obtained from.”
The Journal-Sentinel also reported on Friday, Wisconsin Gov. Walker told reporters “he wasn’t sure if his administration could do anything on its own to open up access to the substance. But if more could be done through state legislation to help families, Walker said he was committed to working with lawmakers to do so.”
Walker and state lawmakers know exactly what must be done. They need to pass legislation like that sponsored by Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) and Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton), AB480/SB363, the Jacki Rickert Medical Cannabis Act (JRMCA), which could be taken up in a special session if the legislative and gubernatorial will to resolve this situation were there.
The JRMCA does not rely on FDA approval as it is written like other current state medical marijuana laws in states like Michigan, Oregon, New Mexico etc. The US Dept. of Justice has issued guidelines that indicate they will not interfere if the state laws comply. The JRMCA is very tightly written and is in full compliance with the guidelines.
Jacki Rickert, namesake of the law and founder of Is My Medicine Legal YET? knows quite a bit about federal approval. She herself was approved for investigational new drug permits (INDs) in 1990 for research and compassionate use of medical cannabis. However, unlike the handful of other patients in the program including Robert Randall, she was never supplied, even with full federal approval.
The medical utilities of cannabis are well-documented and growing. Being under the influence of THC-phobia is not a good way to legislate. The only proper, just and compassionate way forward is to pass the Jacki Rickert Medical Cannabis Act as soon as possible.