Health / Politics / Virginia

Warner (D-VA) co-sponsors Therapeutic Hemp Medical Access Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA) has signed on to co-sponsor the bipartisan Therapeutic Hemp Medical Access Act of 2015, which would allow Virginians suffering with intractable epilepsy access to therapeutic cannabidiol (CBD) oil, a harmless, non-psychoactive hemp extract that is used to treat seizures.

During the 2016 Virginia General Assembly, state lawmakers voted unanimously to join 41 other states in allowing patients to legally possess CBD oil for the treatment of intractable epilepsy. However, pharmaceutical processors in Virginia are not yet permitted to produce the oils, pending the conclusion of a regulatory process currently being developed by the state Board of Pharmacy. In the interim, parents with severely epileptic children must risk federal prosecution in order to make frequent trips across state lines to obtain the oils, which have a 30-day shelf life.

“No parent should have to choose between breaking the law and watching their child suffer,” said Sen. Warner. “It’s time to fix the outdated federal prohibition on CBD and allow families to access this lifesaving treatment for severe forms of epilepsy.”

The Therapeutic Hemp Medical Access Act of 2015 would exempt therapeutic hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, which currently considers it a Schedule I drug alongside heroin, MDMA, and LSD, and make it possible for families to ship the oil between states without fear of prosecution. Under the bill, CBD that contains less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) will be permitted, a limit that ensures none of the psychoactive properties of marijuana are present.

Lisa Smith is a Virginia mom whose daughter, Haley, suffers from a rare seizure disorder called Dravet Syndrome. Before starting treatment with CBD, Haley’s epilepsy caused her to have anywhere from 300 to 800 seizures per year. After starting treatment, Haley’s seizures are down 45 percent and she has been able to reduce by one-third her intake of pharmaceuticals with potentially severe side effects.

“Senator Warner’s commitment to stopping the seizures that our kids suffer every day is evidenced from his co-sponsorship of this life saving legislation,” said Lisa Smith. “In a year of divisive election politics, this legislation is a bipartisan representation of something that not only can get done, it must get done or the life-threatening seizures will continue and more children will die waiting for access. There is no excuse for Congress not to pass this bill, as it has overwhelming support. Caring for our children should not depend on our zip code, and Senator Warner clearly understands that.”

Nearly three-million Americans suffer from “intractable epilepsy” — characterized by frequent, uncontrolled seizures that place tremendous strain on the patient, often resulting in serious physical problems including brain damage and even death.

The Therapeutic Hemp Medical Access Act has been endorsed by the Epilepsy Foundation and The Coalition for Access Now, a nonprofit organization led by families advocating for this important therapy.