Why should students care about Carly’s Law?


Twenty states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for medicinal use. Although Alabama is not on the list, a bill known as Carly’s Law recently passed could be a step toward legalization.

It was passed unanimously by both the Alabama House of Representatives and the Senate on March 24. It legalizes an oil derived from the cannabis plant — CBD oil — and is the first bill of its kind for the state.

Carly’s law, which only awaits the approval of Governor Robert Bentley for legalization, is supposed to help those suffering with seizures, said Billy Beasley, Alabama Senate member for district 28.

“Carly’s Law was named after a child who has epilepsy,” Beasley said. “She suffers from multiple seizures every day. It’s been found that you can extract an oil from the cannabis plant to treat the seizures associated with epilepsy.”

What exactly is CBD oil?

CBD oil is made from the cannabis plant, but it has low levels of the chemicals that cause psychological effects and the high associated with smoking marijuana, said Mike Ball, Alabama House of Representatives member for district 10.

“The oil is remarkable in that it cuts down seizures with little to no harmful side effects,” Ball said. “It has anti-psychotic qualities, and it is also being seen as a breakthrough in schizophrenia treatment.”

It is still unclear how CBD oil reduces seizures, said Mitch Earleywine, chair of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

“Helping people control seizures is a complicated issue, but research since the nineties suggests that epileptic seizures appear to respond to cannabidiol and relate to the function of the CB1, CB2 or NMDA receptors (in the brain),” Earleywine said. “We’re not crystal clear on (how) yet.”

What does the bill actually legalize?

“Originally, the bill said people who had CBD oil that had debilitating illnesses, or their guardians, wouldn’t be prosecuted for possessing it,” Ball said. “As it has evolved, the bill now allows $1 million for the Neurology Department at The University of Alabama at Birmingham to research the oil and to make a way for people who need the oil to have access to it. If anyone possesses the oil in the state, it will be from UAB.”

Who will be able to use CBD oil in the state?

UAB will be the ultimate deciding factor in who can access the oil, Ball said.

“I would expect them to start out with a low number of children, because seizures are more likely to have long term effects on children than adults,” Ball said. “Ultimately, if it proves successful, I’m sure they will find a way to expand the allowances of using the oil.”

Does Carly’s Law indicate a legalization of marijuana for the state in the future?

“We have yet to see a state pass a law like Carly’s Law and subsequently pass a more comprehensive medical marijuana law — in part because it’s just too soon to tell,” Earleywine said.

Freshman Miriam Wilson says she thinks Carly’s Law might lead to other marijuana laws for the state.

“I only see legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, which I wouldn’t be opposed to for the state,” Wilson said.