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What To Make of the New CBD-only Laws

Matt Figi hugs and tickles his once severely-ill 7-year-old daughter Charlotte, as they wander around inside a greenhouse for medical marijuana.
Matt Figi hugs and tickles his once severely-ill 7-year-old daughter Charlotte, as they wander around inside a greenhouse for medical marijuana by Brennan Linsley/AP.


What To Make of the New CBD-only Laws

There is a new trend in conservative states: extremely narrow bills that allow patients to use high CBD/low THC cannabis oil to treat conditions such as epilepsy and symptoms related to cancer.

Utah and Alabama have passed CBD-only laws and many other states, including Indiana, Kentucky and South Carolina, are on the verge of passing such laws. Georgia was close before a state senator killed the bill with an amendment that would require autism to be covered under insurance plans. Florida, Wisconsin and Minnesota are all considering similar laws.

The laws have rightfully come under a lot of criticism. For one, most of them do not involve a legal way to acquire cannabis oil, just the promise that patients will not be charged with marijuana possession once they have the oil. Medical marijuana states that do produce cannabis could not legally sell high CBD oil to these patients, because they would not be residents of those states. Even if they could somehow acquire the oil legally, perhaps from a shop in Colorado or Washington (which could, but would not necessarily stock the purely medicinal oil), the patient would then have to illegally carry it across state lines back home.

On top of all that, the laws are laden with unnecessary quirks, which will seriously limit access. Kentucky’s law only covers minors with seizure disorders. Utah requires patients to get a note from a neurologist. Alabamans will have to obtain a prescription to use the drug under a federally approved clinical trial.

So, there is a lot to not like here, and yet these laws, on balance, are good news. Here’s why:

Progress is progress

Utah passing a medical cannabis law is like a plant growing in a dry, lifeless desert. Maybe you can’t do a whole lot with the plant, but a few people will make use of it, and it’s a sign of life where there was previously none. Sure, we’d all love it if Alabama and Kentucky passed a sensible and comprehensive medical marijuana law, or, for that matter, full legalization, but that wasn’t going to happen in March 2014.

Cannabis is now openly recognized as a medicinal plant

Marijuana is still federally listed as a Schedule I drug, meaning the federal government acknowledges no medicinal use. Not long ago, most state legislators would agree with that classification. The wave of CBD-only bills shows that the nationwide attitude shift toward cannabis has reached the most conservative states.

The medical state count is rising fast

This is a symbolic point, but one that could have real results. Soon we will be able to say that more than half the states have legalized medical marijuana. This makes it easier for politicians who don’t like to stray too far from the political middle to support medical cannabis and the rescheduling of marijuana as a Schedule I drug. President Obama will likely require an abundance of political cover to do so, and a surge in medical states provides that.

It is generally easier to tweak an old law than to create a new one

Adjusting an existing law is something politicians can generally do with little fanfare. While the CBD laws have garnered some attention, it will go mostly unnoticed if Utah passes an amendment on an unrelated bill to expand the conditions for which cannabis oil may be used. States that did not provide a legal mechanism to obtain CBD oil may be cajoled into doing so, either by allowing cultivation or pressuring the federal government to reschedule marijuana.

Yes, the CBD laws are terribly flawed, but flawed pro-cannabis laws in the most conservative states are a sign of the times in the same way that good cannabis laws in other states are. Once they are on the books, we can work to make them better.

Should the cannabis movement view CBD-only laws as a sign of progress? Tell us in the comments below!

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