Bipartisan Group of Senators Introduce Legislation to Provide Access to Epilepsy Treatment

Washington, D.C. – Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), along with Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Orin Hatch (R-UT), Mike Lee (R-UT), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) announced today they are introducing the Therapeutic Hemp Medical Access Act, legislation that would exempt strains of therapeutic hemp, used to fight seizures in children and adults suffering from intractable epilepsy, from the Controlled Substances Act. Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) introduced companion legislation in the House. 

These strains, which include the commonly known Charlotte’s Web, contain less than 0.3% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of marijuana, and have significant medical benefits due to high concentrations of cannabidiol (CBD). Many individuals that do not respond to other anti-seizure treatments have found success using therapeutic hemp oil which is legal in the majority of states but still banned under the Controlled Substances Act.

The conflict between federal and state law has forced many families to uproot their lives and move in order to access adequate treatment for their loved ones. The Therapeutic Hemp Medical Access Act would lift federal prohibitions on this treatment option and provide access for patients across the country. This bill has the support of the Epilepsy Foundation, a national non-profit group that advocates for individuals and families impacted by epilepsy and seizures. It is also supported by The Coalition for Access Now, a nonprofit organization led by families advocating for this important therapy. 

“This bipartisan, commonsense legislation would provide greater access to life-saving treatment for Americans suffering from epilepsy,” said Gardner. “Coloradans know how effective cannabidiol can be and have seen how it changes lives and helps children and adults cope with this serious illness. It is time to make this treatment available across the country and I look forward to working across the aisle to ensure this legislation becomes law and brings relief to American families.”

“This legislation will ensure that families of children suffering from seizures have access to treatments that can provide them with a better quality of life,” said Isakson. “The legislation also removes federal barriers for Georgia families who want to bring the treatments back to Georgia to administer in the comfort of their own home. I’m pleased to once again support this effort to help provide relief for those who need it.”

“There’s zero reason for the federal government to block access to oils that have virtually no use as a recreational drug, but real potential as medicine,” said Merkley. “We shouldn’t let outdated federal drug policy get in the way of treatments that could make a huge difference in the lives of struggling children.”

“The State of Wisconsin has passed a law to make CBD oil more accessible to families, including young children suffering from devastating seizure disorders,” said Johnson. “The powerful stories from families in Wisconsin and others from across the country highlight the therapeutic uses for this compound, and the need for the federal government to eliminate uncertainty surrounding access.”

“Several local families in our District have children suffer from severe epilepsy,” said Rep. Perry. “As a parent, my nightmare would be to learn that I’m essentially out of options, with no significant way to help my child. These families live this nightmare every day. Their heartbreaking situations compelled me to create access to a supplement that literally has changed lives – in the form of relief not only for the person suffering, but also for his/her loved ones. While Pennsylvania has acted to ensure access to the Cannabidiol (CBD) Oil that has helped so many, we must act on the federal level to ensure that every person needing it is able to access this care. I appreciate Senator Gardner’s teamwork on this issue and look forward to working together to getting this bill across the finish line.”

“Charlotte, my daughter, has Dravet Syndrome, a devastating form of intractable epilepsy and she had failed all conventional medical treatments by 5 years of age, was seizing or unconscious 24 hours a day, and was unable to walk, talk, swallow, or breathe,” said Paige Figi. “After much deliberation and research, I decided to begin her on a hemp extract rich in Cannabidiol, a promising but scarce anti-convulsant, non-addictive and nonpsychoactive. The oil miraculously stopped her seizures almost entirely. This was ?ve and a half years ago. Today, Charlotte is thriving and can fully participate in life again. She still takes CBD daily as her only therapy.  Senator Gardner’s bipartisan bill to exempt CBD from the Controlled Substances Act will ?rmly clarify federal law and allow access to a potentially lifesaving therapy for millions like Charlotte.”

Three million Americans suffer from epilepsy, a third of which have “intractable epilepsy” – characterized by frequent, uncontrolled seizures. This condition places a tremendous strain on patients and their families as it often results in serious physical problems including, brain damage, blindness, organ damage and even death.

Charlotte’s Web is named for Charlotte Figi, an 8-year-old Colorado resident who was diagnosed as an infant with Dravet Syndrome, a rare and severe form of epilepsy. As the disease progressed, Charlotte eventually came to suffer as many as 300 grand mal seizures in a week, not including the lower level seizures she was experiencing as well. After having exhausted all other treatment options and doing significant research, Charlotte’s parents tried using a low-THC, high-CBD strain of marijuana, ingested as an oil. The results were immediate and significant: Charlotte’s seizures, and their intensity, were significantly reduced. Instead of suffering dozens per day, she now suffers just a handful per month, and usually in her sleep. 

In the years since marijuana was legalized in Colorado, many individuals and families have flocked to the state in order to obtain the medicine for themselves or loved ones suffering from conditions that are treated by the drug. Legalizing this medication nationwide would prevent families from having to uproot their lives and move long distances just to have access to medicines available in some states but not others.