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Statement by Senator Orrin G. Hatch

Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control
Hearing: “Cannabidiol: Barriers to Research and Potential Medical Benefits” Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Thank you for allowing me to step in to make a brief statement.

I’m heartened by the attention this issue is receiving. CBD has shown tremendous promise in reducing the devastating effects of epilepsy. It offers hope to thousands of children nationwide who each day endure terrifying, uncontrollable seizures. It offers hope as well to parents who must endure the repeated agony of helplessly watching as their children suffer seizure after seizure after seizure.

Ask Paige Figi, whose eight-year-old daughter suffered as many as 300 grand mal seizures per week before starting treatment with CBD, and she will tell you that CBD is a lifesaver. After Charlotte started taking CBD, her seizures dropped dramatically. She now suffers, on average, less than three seizures per month and is able to engage in normal childhood activities.

Now, I understand the desire for caution. We’re Congress. We act slowly. But we must remember that these are people’s lives we’re dealing with. These are people for whom a five- or ten-year delay is not an inconvenience, but a potential death sentence.

Given that CBD produces no psychoactive effect, I frankly see no reason why it should remain illegal under federal law. Our nation’s drug laws exist to protect us from the dangerous, addictive effects of mind-altering substances. We restrict access to cocaine, meth, and other drugs because they take control of people’s lives and lead them to do unpredictable, unsafe things.

But CBD is not like any of those substances. It does not produce any sort of high. It is not addictive. To the contrary, it has shown promise in treating addiction. Rather than harming families, it can help make their lives better.

Parents who wish to obtain CBD to treat their suffering children, however, risk federal prosecution for the sole reason that CBD is derived from the cannabis plant. Never mind that it produces no high. Never mind that it actually counteracts the effects of THC. Under current law, because it is derived from the cannabis plant, it is unlawful.

To remedy this situation, I’ve recently sponsored bipartisan legislation with Senators Gardner, Wyden, Alexander, and others to exempt CBD from the definition of marijuana under federal law. Our bill, S. 1333, will allow parents to obtain this life-changing therapy without threat of federal prosecution. It will enable parents—if they choose—to use a therapy that has shown great success in reducing seizures in children for whom all other treatments have failed.

I want to reiterate that CBD cannot be used to get high. That point is critical. It is what differentiates CBD from all of these other attempts to legalize marijuana—whether for medical purposes or otherwise.

Nor is CBD a camel’s nose in the tent for advocates of full marijuana legalization. Fifteen states have now legalized CBD. These include some of the most rock-ribbed conservative states in the country, such as Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas. In fact, my home state of Utah—certainly no redoubt of hippie liberalism—was the very first state to legalize CBD.

I continue to oppose marijuana and efforts to legalize its use. I remain unconvinced by claims that it is safe and that the side effects it causes are no big deal. Stories of children being rushed to the hospital for accidentally consuming marijuana edibles belie the notion that marijuana is a safe drug. In fact, I am currently working on legislation to help protect children from the dangers of edible marijuana products.

But I also believe that when a drug is safe and can improve people’s lives, Congress should not stand in the way. That CBD is derived from the cannabis plant does not mean we should be scared to have anything to do with it. Legalizing CBD is a compassionate, commonsense move that will bring relief to thousands of suffering children nationwide.

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Last modified on Thursday, 25 June 2015 15:02
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