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OTHER VOICES: Remove senseless restrictions on cannabidiol in S.D.

December 29, 2018

A state law restricting cannabidiol resulted from South Dakota’s reluctance to move quickly on anything related to marijuana. This half-way to nowhere approach makes little sense and may cause needless suffering.

CBD oil — as cannabidiol is known — can’t get you high. CBD is the polar opposite of its criminal cousin THC, the psychoactive chemical in pot.

CBD oil is to THC what hardworking hemp is to its controversial doppleganger. Hemp also won’t get you high.

In recent years, CBD has proven to be the only effective aid for some children suffering from severe epilepsy, but it also may be broadly helpful with nausea, anxiety and pain. Notice the “may be” — a lot remains unknown — but at least it appears harmless.

For decades, hemp’s resemblance to marijuana besmirched its reputation and by extension that of CBD. Hemp’s nightmare is about to end, however, thanks to Farm Bill provisions that finally recognize you can’t judge a plant by its cousin. Business analysts predict a hemp explosion. Sen. Mitch McConnell championed widespread hemp because of its potential to replace tobacco, a plant that’s legal despite many proven harms.

Soon we can expect to see what appear to be giant pot fields blooming all across America.

In South Dakota, however, because of a 2017 law, CBD will remain available only by prescription. The irony would be comedic if the rule didn’t hurt people.

If CBD can’t get you high, the potential for abuse is nil. The health supplement sections of nearly every grocery store stand full of old-world remedies that can’t get you high and may or may not work. Consider ginseng, St. John’s wort, ginkgo biloba and aloe vera. Many of us try them, and if they don’t work, we stop. Americans can even buy melatonin in health supplement aisles. That sleep aid requires a medical prescription in the United Kingdom, European Union, Japan, Australia and Canada. Americans generally prefer fewer restrictions. We can judge what works by ourselves.

Restricting CBD might make sense if it had even the psychoactive abilities of, say, nutmeg — which can kill you — or even alcohol, the most widely abused naturally occurring substance in the world. It doesn’t.

Why did South Dakota restrict CBD? There appear to be two reasons. A British pharmaceutical company seeking to license a purified form of CBD oil lobbied lawmakers heavily. Two, the company’s extract can be guaranteed pure and free of even trace amounts of THC.

It sounds reasonable if you overlook some big holes. Without regulation, how can we discern pure CBD from an adulterated product? The same way we will discern legal hemp fields from illegal pot fields. Hemp will soon be ubiquitous.

Continuing the state requirement for a prescription also makes CBD outrageously expensive and difficult to obtain. Consider the recent findings of a CBD study for epilepsy patients at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The majority of 23 participating epilepsy patients benefited from taking CBD oil. The study used Epidiolex oral solution, the same drug approved by South Dakota lawmakers. The study’s author noted the Epidiolex cost an estimated $32,000 each year. He added it will be more difficult to obtain after becoming commercially available.

Who gets hurt by the state’s restrictions? The poor, the elderly, people dying from cancer. McConnell, the Republican Congress and President Trump approved widespread growing of hemp. CBD won’t get anybody high. This shouldn’t be controversial even though it tangentially involves pot. Lawmakers should remove the senseless restrictions.

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