Medical Marijuana and Epilepsy

Disclaimer: Please note, this report was written in 2014.  Much has happened within this quickly changing landscape and our report is currently being updated with new information.  We hope to have complete, current information available by July 2015.

Important: Cannabis Legislation Introduced:

CARERS Act Introduced in the Senate

Senators Cory Booker (NJ), Rand Paul (KY), and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), have introduced legislation to move cannabis to Schedule II and to remove cannabidiol (CBD) from the Controlled Substances Act. The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act (S. 683) would lift federal barriers to research on cannabis and CBD, and protect individuals in states with medical cannabis programs. For individuals experiencing multiple seizures every day, cannabis is a treatment option they would like to consider with their care team when other options have failed. Medical use of cannabis has been legalized in 23 states and the District of Columbia, and people living with uncontrolled seizures have reported beneficial effects and reduced seizure activity when using medical cannabis, especially CBD oil. Urge your Senators to support the CARERS Act at http://bit.ly/EFS683 to facilitate research on cannabis and help the epilepsy community gain safe, legal access to this treatment option.

DEA Scheduling Bill Passes House, Moves on to Senate

Thanks to the advocacy of the epilepsy community, yesterday the House of Representatives passed the Improving Regulatory Transparency for New Medical Therapies Act (H.R. 639), which would bring transparency and consistency of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) review of new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medications.  The bill now moves to the Senate, and we will continue to advocate for passage of this important legislation and we need your help! Access to new therapies is particularly important for the one third of people living with epilepsy who experience intractable or uncontrolled seizures, and the many more who experience significant adverse effects from medication. Urge your Senators to support H.R. 639 at http://bit.ly/EFSenDEA so safe and innovative treatments can get to people living with epilepsy in a more timely and predictable manner.

Call Your Representative to Support CBD Access

Support H.R. 5226 to Improve Access to CBD    Take Action!

Representative Scott Perry has introduced the Charlotte’s Web Medical Hemp Act of 2014 (H.R. 5226) to remove therapeutic hemp from the Controlled Substances Act. This would expand the availability of this treatment option and make extracting cannabidiol (CBD) oil legal at the federal level by allowing cannabis with less than .3% THC to be grown as therapeutic hemp.

There is no "one size fits all" treatment for epilepsy, and about a third of people living with epilepsy suffer from uncontrolled or intractable seizures, with many more living with significant side-effects, despite available treatments. Uncontrolled seizures can lead to disability, injury, and even death.  This is why people living with uncontrolled seizures turn to medical cannabis when all other options have failed

Medical use of cannabis has been legalized in 23 states and the District of Columbia, and people living with uncontrolled seizures have reported beneficial effects and reduced seizure activity when using medical cannabis, especially CBD oil. But people living with uncontrolled seizures and in states where medical cannabis is not legal, don't have access to this promoting treatment options. Some families split up, and one parent moves to a state where medical cannabis is legal to gain access to CBD for their child. But this is not an option for most people living with epilepsy.  

Nothing should stand in the way of patients gaining access to this potentially lifesaving treatment when all other options have failed.

Representatives are back in their home states during the August recess.  This month is the time to call your local office and urge your Representative to cosponsor H.R. 5226.  Click Take Action and enter your zip code to let your Member of Congress know you support H.R. 5226.

The use of marijuana for children with epilepsy has been in the national spotlight since CNN’s Sanjay Gupta featured in August 2013 the story of Charlotte Figi, a Colorado child with Dravet Syndrome.  Charlotte’s previously intractable seizures declined dramatically after she began taking a medication now known as “Charlotte’s Web” made from marijuana plants.  This case has placed Colorado at the epicenter of this phenomenon, as families from around the United States are moving to Colorado to access Charlotte’s Web for their children who are suffering from uncontrolled seizures. 

In keeping with our mission to provide accurate information about all therapies and treatments, The Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado has compiled a variety of resources, including our own comprehensive report to the community.  This carefully researched report is provided as an educational service to the epilepsy community.  We expect that patients and their families will consider all available therapies through thorough consultation with their own physicians. 

As the leading advocacy organization for people living with epilepsy in Colorado, we join the national Epilepsy Foundation in feeling a sense of urgency to respond to and take action on an issue that has been brought to our attention by the people we serve -- the use of medical marijuana to treat epilepsy.

The Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado supports the rights of patients and families living with seizures and epilepsy to access physician directed care, including medical marijuana. 

The Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado calls for an end to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) restrictions that limit clinical trials and research into medical marijuana for epilepsy. 

The Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado believes that an end to seizures should not be determined by one’s zip code.

The Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado will be doing the following to support improved access and research into medical marijuana:

  1. Calling on the Drug Enforcement Administration to implement a lesser schedule for marijuana so that it can be more easily accessible for medical research.
  2. Supporting appropriate changes to state laws to increase access to medical marijuana as a treatment option for epilepsy, including pediatric use as supported by a treating physician.
  3. Supporting the inclusion of epilepsy as a condition that uses medical marijuana as a treatment option where it is currently available.
  4. Supporting research on multiple forms of cannabis and seizures.

Read the national Epilepsy Foundation’s statement in its entirety here.

Epilepsy Foundation Calls for Increased Medical Marijuana Access and Research By Philip M. Gattone, President & CEO, Epilepsy Foundation and Warren Lammert, Chair, Epilepsy Foundation Board of...

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