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1st legal CBD-based drug treats epilepsy

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RACINE — Smoking medical marijuana remains illegal in Wisconsin, as it does in 19 states, even if prescribed by a doctor. However, other uses of drugs made from chemicals found in the marijuana plant are getting the OK at the state and national levels.

State Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, has applauded the Federal Drug Administration for approving Epidiolex to treat four forms of epilepsy. The active ingredient in Epidiolex is cannabidiol (CBD), a compound found in marijuana plants. This is the first time the FDA has approved a cannabis-based drug.

“It’s about time,” Wanggaard told The Journal Times.

Wanggaard, is glad to see the researchers looking into medications that don’t rely on artificial chemicals, but rather utilize naturally occurring ones, such as CBD. Besides seizures, CBD has been shown to also reduce anxiety and inflammation, but does not create the “high” feeling associated with marijuana. That feeling results from the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. There are only trace amounts of THC in Epidiolex, less than 0.1 percent.

Epidiolex was created by Greenwich Biosciences, a pharmaceutical company focused on CBD-based therapeutics.

“In theory, it is a good start to recognizing there are some medicinal effects that it can have,” Wanggaard said.

According to its website, Greenwich Biosciences is “committed to developing new medicines to treat rare, treatment-resistant epilepsy conditions where there are limited or, in some cases, no approved treatment options.”

Epidiolex comes as a liquid and can be consumed by drinking, allowing it to be administered to young children.

Although this is the first CBD-based drug approved by the FDA, Wanggaard hopes that more and more will be allowed in the future.

“(The FDA’s approval of Epidiolex is) a small step toward the complete legalization of CBD, but it is a significant one,” Wanggaard said in a press release.

At maximum, Epidiolex will be available to Wisconsinites within 120 days of its FDA approval, which was announced in April.

Wanggaard is wary of giving unchecked approval of CBD-based drugs, however. He thinks that slapdash approvals of many opioid-based medications exacerbated the prevalence of addictions nationwide.

“If we start expanding the scope of drug use, we’re going to need to keep a handle on it,” Wanggaard said. “I do not agree with recreational use of marijuana. I think that opens up a whole can of worms. … As for medicinal use? Oh yeah, we can look at that.”


CBD oil, which doesn’t contain any THC, was legalized for doctor-prescribed use in Wisconsin in April 2017. The oil has been used to treat anxiety, depression, acne, and pain as well as reduce the negative side effects of chemotherapy for cancer patients.

In Racine County, the legality of selling CBD oil came into question last month, and Racine County District Attorney Tricia Hanson warned stores against selling it, under penalty of prosecution. Per state law, it is legal for doctors to prescribe CBD oil and other CBD-based products, but they still cannot be sold over the counter.

Days after issuing the warning, Hanson stated that the county will wait “to prosecute these cases until the law in this area is more settled.”

“I do not agree with recreational use of marijuana. I think that opens up a whole can of worms. … As for medicinal use? Oh yeah, we can look at that.”

State Sen. Van Wanggaard


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