In news that could have profound implications for the legality and availability of cannabidiol (CBD) products, Leafly News has learned that the British pharmaceutical company GW Pharma and its American subsidiary Greenwich BioSciences are quietly moving proprietary CBD bills through at least two U.S. state legislatures, and could have plans for similar bills in other states.
The proposed measures, both taken from the same template, would effectively give GW/Greenwich a temporary monopoly on legal CBD products in South Dakota and Nebraska.
The pharmaceutical company’s lobbyists are moving in anticipation of the FDA’s expected approval of Epidiolex, a CBD-based drug that’s currently in Phase III clinical trials. Epidiolex has been developed by GW/Greenwich for the treatment of several rare childhood-onset epilepsy disorders. The company has been developing the drug for years, and FDA approval could come as early as this summer.
In a possibly related development, Greenwich BioSciences has recently retained the services of registered political lobbyists in at least nine state capitals. It’s unclear why the company chose South Dakota and Nebraska as pilot sites for these bills. Neither state allows any kind of medical cannabis, but both operate in fairly obscure regions where legislative bills typically don’t attract a lot of attention.
The move has alarmed some patient advocates in South Dakota and Nebraska, who have been fighting for years to pass medical cannabis laws. They fear that GW’s move could preempt their own efforts, undercut support for full medical legalization, and limit patient options to the GW/Greenwich patented product.
“SB 95 will block all current and readily-available CBD options for South Dakota’s children,” Melissa Mentele told Leafly. Mentele is the chairperson of New Approach South Dakota, the state’s main cannabis reform group. “It will make Epidiolex the only option. As we know, one medicine does not work for all patients. We can’t take away options for these catastrophically ill children and their families.”
“The ‘FDA approved’ language is being pushed heavily by GW and Greenwich BioSciences for a reason,” Mentele added. “They want to be the only option in South Dakota. What happens when the only option doesn’t work?”
Leafly has reached out to Greenwich BioSciences for comment. The company has yet to respond
The South Dakota bill, SB 95, had its first committee hearing earlier this week. The bill exempts cannabidiol from the definition of marijuana and moves CBD from a state-designated Schedule I drug to a Schedule IV substance. The piece of the bill that’s critical to GW/Greenwich: These moves affect only cannabidiol products that have received federal FDA approval. Epidiolex is currently the only widely known CBD product nearing full FDA approval.
If the bill passes, GW Pharma and Greenwich Biosciences will effectively own a legal monopoly on CBD products in South Dakota and Nebraska—at least until another CBD-based product achieves FDA approval.
Written for Leafly by Bruce Barcott