SHERIDAN — As Sheridan and Wyoming residents have the opportunity to apply for hemp extract registration cards, questions over similarities between hemp and marijuana arise. Cards will provide qualifying individuals with intractable epilepsy to treat their symptoms with hemp.
Coming from Cannabis Sativa — a plant typically used for industrial purposes — it carries only trace amount of Tetrahydro-cannabinol, the principal psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Products being made from hemp must contain less than 0.3 percent THC in order to be legally sold in Wyoming.
Hemp products — such as ropes and fabrics — are manufactured from the male plant while medical and recreational uses of marijuana come from the female plant.
Kim Deti of the Wyoming Department of Health, said only 175 people will qualify for hemp cards and, likely, not everyone will pursue it.
“This is not something that people should expect to see a large amount of participation in,” she said.
In order to legally purchase hemp for treatment, individuals must be diagnosed with intractable epilepsy by a neurologist before filling out multiple forms on the WDH’s site. Additionally, any THC in hemp extract will be minute and not lead to psychoactive reactions like marijuana. Simply put, hemp extract is not a drug that can substituted for recreational marijuana.
It may, however, be a step toward the legalization of medical marijuana, said Health Center Executive Director Wendy Ongaro.
Like many other drugs coming from cannabinoids — such as marinol for treatment in HIV and cancer patients — there are medical benefits, Ongaro said. When not abused, these drugs are not very concerning. Ongaro said she is more worried about current issues with prescription drug abuse and overdose in Sheridan County than marijuana use.
During an infectious disease residency at Duke University, Ongaro said she saw the benefits of marinol for treating serious illnesses. Currently, she works with low-income and addicted patients. Marijuana has not been an issue with her clientele.
Although not concerned, as progression is made toward legalized medical marijuana Ongaro said she plans to watch for any abuse. Like many naturally occurring substances before — chewing coca leaves in Peru as opposed to the cocaine addiction the U.S. sees — addiction can spike when the compounds are altered. Intentional chemical changes to natural substances by pharmaceutical companies have a somewhat poor history of working out, Ongaro said. When the substance is purified and/or strengthened for effect, it can lead to higher demand among users.
“Anytime we have purified something that’s psychoactive it hasn’t gone well,” she said.