- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 2, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The South Carolina House passed a bill Wednesday allowing people suffering from severe epilepsy to legally use oil derived from marijuana to control their seizures.

The overwhelming 90-24 vote brought tears from supporters who have spent weeks educating conservative legislators on the bill.

The measure allows people certified by a doctor as suffering from severe epilepsy, or their parents, to legally possess non-psychoactive cannabidiol, known as CBD oil.

The Senate passed its own version last week that limited use to clinical trials testing federally approved drugs. Supporters say that provides no practical access to the potentially life-changing liquid treatment.

Jill Swing of Mount Pleasant said Wednesday’s vote means she may not have to move to Colorado, which has legalized marijuana, to help her 6-year-old daughter. She said the child can suffer from hundreds of seizures an hour.

“I’m very grateful,” Swing said. “I’m far more optimistic than I was a week ago.”

She and her mother, Harriett Hilton, have been a driving force behind the bills being introduced by Republicans in both chambers and gaining the support of others hesitant to vote for anything associated with marijuana.

Restrictions were added to the Senate version after the South Carolina Medical Association and State Law Enforcement Division raised concerns. But the House didn’t back down.

“This is what parents need,” said Rep. Jenny Horne, R-Summerville, the House bill’s main sponsor. The Senate version “is too restrictive because, in reality, it’s nearly impossible to get into a clinical trial. … This can be a miracle drug. It’s the right thing to do.”

As for clinical trials, the FDA has granted orphan drug status for Epidiolex, an oral, liquid form of CBD, for use in rare and severe childhood forms of epilepsy. The designation provides incentives and allows for testing of drugs that treat rare diseases. Currently, the research is being conducted in New York and California.

Swing notes that even if her daughter happened to be selected for a future study, she may be among those getting a placebo, which does her no good.

The bill’s passage came after legislators defeated an amendment by House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford widening the bill, to legalize marijuana for medical treatment.

“This is a bill whose time has simply come. Stop the suffering that people endure on a regular basis because we have an antiquated notion that something that grows out of the ground must be eradicated by the government,” said Rutherford, D-Columbia.

He expects to reintroduce the proposal next year.

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