CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) — The medical cannabis bill poised to pass the South Carolina Senate would prioritize existing hemp farmers in the state for certifications to grow marijuana.

Janel Ralph is the CEO of ReBotanicals, one of the first hemp farms in South Carolina. She got involved in the cannabis business because of her daughter, who has a rare, debilitating condition.

“Modern medicine had failed her,” Ralph said. “There were no more pharmaceuticals we could give her. They ran out of options, so we did a Hail Mary.”

Judy Ghanem’s 16-year-old daughter Kira has autism and is non-verbal. 

“She has extremely aggressive behaviors; not all the time, but it’s definitely affecting her quality of life,” Ghanem said.

Ghanem turned to CBD oil when Kira’s medication started having severe side effects.

“It eased those behaviors,” she said. “You could actually spend time with her and make eye contact, it was like she was a real person.”

Ralph said while her company’s approach to medical cannabis is undecided if the bill becomes law, there is not a big difference between growing marijuana and hemp.

“It’s almost identical to how you’re producing marijuana plants,” she said. “The only difference would be the security and regulations that would go around that.”

Although Ralph is happy farmers are being thought of, she hopes the legislation is taken a step further.

“There is a clause in there that states that any cannabinoid or CBD derived from hemp, or any hemp product to be sold in dispensaries or to be sold in manufacturers, but it leaves it wide open for any of these CBD products that could be grown in Colorado, could be sold into our medical marijuana program,” she said.  “That’s not benefitting the farmers in South Carolina.”

Both moms hope lawmakers agree with their side of the debate during this session.

“We’ve been fighting this battle on the hill for seven years and it is time,” Ralph said.

“If there is an alternative that is less harmful and works just as well, we should have the right to try it,” Ghanem said.