The Epilepsy Foundation of Hawaii, in keeping with the recent policy statement from our national counterpart, recognizes the urgency for individuals with epilepsy in Hawaii to gain access to medical marijuana.

Our Professional Advisory Board estimates that over 15,000 Hawaii residents have epilepsy, a neurological condition that includes recurring seizures. One in 26 people will develop epilepsy at some point in their lifetime. One-third of people with epilepsy live with uncontrollable seizures because no available treatment works for them.

We support the rights of patients and families living with seizures and epilepsy to have access to physician-directed care, including medical marijuana as a potential treatment option. Nothing should stand in the way of patients gaining access to potential life-saving treatment.

Currently, patients in Hawaii are not being allowed safe access to contaminant-free medical marijuana that the State has already accepted as medicine. We recognize that the primary obstacle that is keeping individuals with epilepsy from gaining access to medical marijuana, and preventing much needed medical research, is the current misclassification of marijuana as a federal Schedule I controlled substance.

The Epilepsy Foundation of Hawaii supports measures at the State level that could help resolve the federal misclassification of marijuana, so that our clients would be able to legally purchase medical marijuana within the State. One such measure is a resolution that was recently introduced into both the Senate and the House, which approaches this problem by (1) recognizing the State’s authority to accept the medical use of controlled substances, (2) recognizing that marijuana is currently misclassified in federal Schedule I, and (3) requesting that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) follow the Controlled Substances Act and initiate rescheduling proceedings.

Our hope is that such a resolution, once adopted and transmitted to the DEA, could be enough to finally force this federal administrative agency to follow the Federal Controlled Substances Act and recognize the currently accepted medical use of marijuana in treatment that already exists in Hawaii and the United States.

We believe that only then, after the DEA reschedules marijuana, will our State be able to develop a regulated distribution system for medical marijuana that can comply with federal laws and can provide an alternative treatment option for patients that so urgently need it.

About the author: Samantha West is executive director of Epilepsy Foundation of Hawaii. She strongly believes in the organization’s mission to stop seizures, find a cure and overcome the challenges created by epilepsy.

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