US Senator Chuck Grassley is Wrong on Medical Cannabis

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New committee chairman Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) takes his seat for a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill January 22, 2015 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI        (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to meet with our U.S. Senator from Iowa to discuss medical cannabis. Sen. Grassley was receptive to hearing about how my 4-year-old son Abram, who suffers from an extremely rare genetic mutation that causes seizures, has been able to find relief from cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive cannabis oil that has allowed my son to live seizure-free for over a year. My son’s quality of life has greatly improved in the last year because of this and we have managed to cut by three-fourths his prescription for a highly addictive benzodiazepine — an FDA “approved” psychoactive drug that was never tested or approved specifically for children under the age of 18.

Recently, Sen. Grassley introduced the Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act which would ease research barriers and exempt pediatric patients with intractable epilepsy and their parents/legal guardians from the penalties of the Controlled Substances Act for the possession and pediatric use of CBD. Though Sen. Grassley is sympathetic to pediatric epilepsy patients, adult epilepsy patients and patients with conditions other than intractable epilepsy would be excluded under this legislation. In addition, no amounts of the chemical compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are permitted. Though my son would be covered under this legislation, many other patients would be excluded and I worry where this type of legislation will lead us when our son is an adult and still in need of this medicine.

There is a large body of research supporting the efficacy of medical cannabis as a treatment for many other medical conditions such as Crohn’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, cancer, and chronic pain. Additionally, medical cannabis has been shown to be more effective when THC and CBD compounds are simultaneously present, a phenomenon known as the “entourage effect” – and the patients that use these compounds also deserve protection from federal prosecution.. Excluding protections for these patients is sending a message that somehow the lives of people with epilepsy matter more than those with other severe conditions.

Furthermore, Sen. Grassley has been ignoring a bill that would protect all Iowans who use medical cannabis from federal prosecution. The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act, currently in the U.S. Senate, seeks to remedy the legal discrepancy between state and federal law, ensuring that any patient who uses medical cannabis in compliance with his or her state law is no longer vulnerable to federal prosecution.

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