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Becoming a Medical Marijuana Patient in North Carolina

David Bowman

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Patients must be registered in the Intractable Epilepsy Alternative Treatment Pilot Study database through a state-approved program at one of four select Universities. North Carolina's limited-use law does not apply to those who suffer from debilitating medical conditions like cancer, AIDS, ALS or Multiple Sclerosis. Patients are also prohibited from using cannabis with THC:CBD ratios that do not conform to the law.

What's Legal
Under the strict terms of the law, patients and their caregivers may only possess cannabis extractions which contain less than 0.3% THC and at least 10% CBD. There is no mechanism for cultivation, distribution, or possession of cannabis products other than "hemp extracts."

Eligible Conditions
The only qualifying condition under the North Carolina law is intractable epilepsy, which is defined as "a seizure disorder that, as determined by a neurologist, does not respond to three or more treatment options overseen by the neurologist." No other conditions are eligible for legal protections under North Carolina law.

Application Process
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is required to create an online database registry for the Intractable Epilepsy Alternative Treatment Pilot Study. The registry will contain information on patients, caregivers, and their physicians. DHHS was required by October 1, 2014 to provide regulations on the Intractable Epilepsy Alternative Treatment Pilot Study, including the applying to registry; however, as of late October 2014, DHHS had not posted any information about the program or registry to its website.

The law requires that patients must be under the care of a neurologist that is conducting a pilot study on hemp extract therapy for intractable epilepsy. The neurologist conducting the study must attempt at least three other treatment options without success before recommending hemp extract treatment. Only neurologists licensed in North Carolina who are affiliated with the neurology departments are the following universities are eligible to apply to take part in the pilot study program: (1) The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, (2) East Carolina University, (3) Duke University, or (4) Wake Forest University. A neurologist who meets this standard may apply to participate by submitting an application to DHHS with the following information (note: DHHS must set forth the application process and create the registry database before physicians may apply):
  • The name of the pilot study;
  • The affiliated research institution;
  • The scientific and clinical parameters of the study;
  • The protocols established to ensure patient safety;
  • The name and address of the one or more neurologists associated with the pilot study; and
  • Any other information deemed necessary by the Department to determine the safety and evidence-based nature of the pilot study.
Only caregivers are allowed to acquire hemp extract, patients are not allowed to directly acquire the medicine regardless of whether or not the patient is an adult. The law does not provide for a clear means for caregivers to acquire hemp extract. Seemingly, caregivers will have to travel out of state to a medical cannabis state that has hemp extract for sale and allows sales to non-resident caregivers. DHHS will set forth the official application process to become a caregiver, which will include the following requirements:
  • Must be at least 18 years of age
  • Must be a resident of North Carolina
  • Must submit copy of the patient's written recommendation from their neurologist
  • Pay the fee (TBD, law requires the feel to be no more than $50)
  • Name, address, and ID info
The law imposes no limits on where patients may consume their medicine.

Age Limits
There are no age limits for patients.

The law explicitly states that patient information collected under the pilot study program may not be made available to the public.

The are no housing discrimination protections under the law.

The are no employment discrimination protections under the law.

Health insurers are not required to pay for hemp oil therapy under the pilot study program.

Out of State Patients
The law does not recognize out of state patients.

Source: ASA: Becoming a Patient in North Carolina
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