Any parent will agree there are no limits to what we would do to save our children. Even if that means becoming an outlaw.
Until last year, my 7-year-old daughter Bethany, who suffers from a rare form of epilepsy, was experiencing more than 100 seizures a day. She had become bedridden, unable to talk or walk. When hospice was called, my husband, Todd, and I knew that we would do anything to try to change the course of our daughter’s life.
I discovered cannabidiol, or CBD, a form of cannabis oil that has been shown to reduce seizures, and began administering it to my daughter, regardless of the law. At that time, N.C. law allowed CBD oil – but only to those taking part in a pilot test at four of our state universities. Several weeks into this treatment, when Bethany was once again able to sing “You are my sunshine,” Todd and I knew it was worth it.
Since then, N.C. law has been slightly expanded beyond university pilot studies to exempt any individual with intractable epilepsy from criminal penalties who have the approval of a North Carolina hospital-affiliated neurologist. Technically, according to N.C. law, I’m no longer a criminal.
The problem is, these medical cannabis reforms apply only to those who suffer from intractable epilepsy, like my daughter. What about the other patients out there suffering from Crohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease and chronic pain? What about our veterans suffering with PTSD? Individuals suffering from all of these conditions have been able to experience relief from medical cannabis – yet in our state, accessing this treatment remains illegal.
Another issue lies in the continued illegality of production within North Carolina of any form of medical cannabis. This means my husband and I have to travel to Colorado or another state that allows the production of this treatment – and risk prosecution for interstate trafficking of a controlled substance.
Furthermore, because all forms of cannabis remain illegal at the federal level, administering this life-saving treatment to my daughter – even in compliance with N.C. law – I remain vulnerable to federal prosecution.
Though we clearly have more work to do in our state, our federal representatives have a chance to make a positive impact on the lives of countless families. The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act, a bill in the U.S. Senate, would remove CBD from the list of controlled substances as well as protect any individual using medical cannabis legally under his or her state law from federal prosecution. That means that families who are forced to travel across state lines to purchase CBD are no longer breaking interstate transport laws, and that medical cannabis patients across the country can feel safe and protected in accessing treatments that their states have deemed legal.
The CARERS Act has bipartisan support. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and thus has an opportunity to stand up for N.C. families and patients fighting for life-changing treatment access. We need his support in this fight.
We have a ways to go until North Carolina’s medical cannabis laws are comprehensive enough to bring home the dozens of families forced to relocate to states more hospitable to their medical needs; however, this federal legislation is an important step in the journey.
Bethany, because of this opportunity, continues to improve. All patients deserve the same.
Abby Childers lives with her husband, Todd, and their children in Charlotte.