North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory on Thursday signed a law allowing limited use of medical marijuana to treat seizures, joining states where cannabis has been legalized in some circumstances for therapeutic purposes.
The legislation, called the Hope 4 Haley and Friends bill, was named for 6-year-old Haley Ward of Newport, who suffers from daily seizures. It passed with wide support among North Carolina legislators, following testimony from parents calling it their last hope.
"For some children, this treatment is the only relief they can get from debilitating seizures," McCrory, a Republican, said in a statement.
North Carolina joins states that include Alabama, Mississippi and Florida in allowing the controlled use of a cannabis extract, cannabidiol. It shows promise in helping to reduce seizures, particularly in children who suffer from epilepsy.
The chemical is gathered from cannabis plants genetically engineered to contain only tiny amounts of the compound that causes marijuana to produce a high.
North Carolina's law is so limited that some advocacy groups do not count it among the 23 states, plus the District of Columbia, that have legalized medical marijuana, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, which considers the new law largely symbolic.
North Carolina authorizes the sale of cannabidiol to patients who suffer persistent seizures. They must register with the state.
Provisions in the new law encourage research to develop new treatments for epilepsy involving the extract. Some North Carolina universities could grow cannabis for study.
(Reporting by Letitia Stein; Editing by Doina Chiacu)