Could bill to expand medical research of marijuana hurt NC's pilot hemp program?
ASHEVILLE (WLOS) - One of North Carolina's two U.S. senators has joined the call for expansion of research into the medical benefits of marijuana.
Sen. Thom Tllis (R-N.C.) is co-sponsoring a bill that would reclassify a derivative of the plant -- CBD. Tillis said that would remove unnecessary barriers to studying the potential benefits and risks.
READ MORE from ABC affiliate WLOS here.
"Cannabidiol is currently a controlled substance," Tillis said in a statement. "This bill would reassess that categorization and expand research into the potential medical benefits of marijuana components."
But not everyone is pleased with the bill.
Several local farmers have joined North Carolina's industrial hemp pilot program. They believe the Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act is nothing more than bad medicine.
One of the many active compounds of cannabis sativa, the marijuana plant, is CBD. It is not the THC that gets you high. Low levels of CBD exist in the industrial hemp being test-grown at places like the University of Kentucky and also studied and used around the world.
In late May, the first batch of hemp clones, more than 7,600 seedlings were brought to Western North Carolina from Colorado. The plants are state-permitted and being planted in WNC as part of a small-farmer push to bring back a multi-use crop that banned decades ago.
And it could be threatened by the Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act.
"There haven't been a lot of American studies, because it's not been legal to study," Brian Morris, co-founder and owner of Carolina Hemp Co. in Asheville, said. "It would make it probably impossible to get seeds or clones again, and, if we did so, it would be illegal to plant it."
Morris believes the proposed bill makes no sense.
It would move CBD from Schedule I illegal to Schedule II prescription status, alongside drugs like methadone, oxycodone, fentanyl and morphine. So it would be classified as legal for study only and governed by the FDA.
"It should be descheduled, not rescheduled to study only. That would kill the entire industry, not just the farmers, but, people like us in our company," Morris said. "We wouldn't be able to sell it."
Tillis and others, including some democrats, said the expansion act is the right way to go. Morris believes it is not.
"Americans have enough sense, you know, to think this through for themselves and realize that, maybe, they're being fed something that hasn't really worked out so well, and we need to rethink this," Morris said.
A similar bill failed in Congress last year.