A San Diego company is producing and selling what could be a legal alternative to medical marijuana.
HempMedPX is creating hemp oil rich in CBD or cannabidiol. Unlike THC in marijuana, CBD does not cause the “high” effect. Rather, recent studies indicate “CBD to be well tolerated and safe” and is being tested to treat children with uncontrolled seizures.
Dr. Joshua Hartsel tests the products of HempMedPX and says they contain less than 1 percent THC and up to 90 percent CBD. He says the products are tested three to five times and at least once at a third-party lab.
“It’s tested not only for the THC and CBD levels, it’s tested for pesticides, pathogens, anything that could be really harmful to the consumer,” Hartsel said. “We produce CBD on a large scale. Right now, no one is doing that."
NBC 7 spoke to Dr. Steven Poceta who is a neurologist at Scripps Clinic Torrey Pines and the president-elect of the San Diego County Medical Society. He says some patients with epilepsy are using CBD, and there is some suggestion that the component is effective.
“There is at least one basic science study that suggests CBD could be an effective anticonvulsant,” he said. “It has some promise, but at this point, unfortunately, it's not well studied enough to understand side effects and the long term benefits ratio of using this.”
Poceta says in extreme cases, it may be reasonable for patients to consider trying CBD after consulting their doctor.
One of those extreme cases is out of Orange County. Blake Zika, 22, has suffered from frequent seizures since he was four years old. His illness has left him developmentally challenged.
There have been times Blake would have a seizure every half hour, and his mother, Stacy Lynch, would worry how he would get through the night.
“He had 200 seizures Monday through Thursday, so bad he lost his swallowing reflex,” Lynch said. “I have 25 known drugs that he had to be put in a medically induced coma and these are all FDA approved and the side effects are just horrible.”
In August, she learned online about CBD and obtained hemp oil from a friend of a friend. That oil happened to be high in THC and made Blake have more seizures. In search of a safe, consistent product, Lynch found HempMedPX. She put the CBD-rich hemp oil into a pill for Blake to ingest.
Since then, she says he has had far fewer seizures and is able to sleep through the night.
The oil is not cheap. According to Charles Vest, the Vice President of Communications for HempMedPX, a week’s worth of their most potent oil cost about $400 to $500.
“What we would like is to get that to like a month’s supply for that amount of money,” Vest said. “We want nothing more than to have the cost be the same as sugar or salt. More and more people find out about it, the lower the price will go.”
Poceta remains cautiously optimistic about the benefits of CBD. He says the California Medical Association has called for increased evaluation of the medical marijuana industry to allow for more research and more information.