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Colorado senators tout legislation to legalize therapeutic hemp

May 14, 2015 Updated: May 14, 2015 at 8:52 pm
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Jesse Stanley, one of six brothers who have pioneered the use of medical cannabis for pediatric use to treat seizures, holds up Mia Halabi's first dose Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at the brothers' Denver laboratory. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

Colorado's two senators introduced legislation this week to legalize therapeutic hemp across the nation - a move that could vastly expand access to cannabis-based oils touted as a treatment for epileptic children.

Republican Cory Gardner and Democrat Michael Bennet were among six senators to sponsor the Therapeutic Hemp Medical Access Act of 2015. It comes after similar legislation was introduced last year in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa.

During a press conference Wednesday, Gardner touted the bipartisan effort as a means to help families gain access to "life changing, lifesaving opportunities." Bennet also praised the benefits of the oils, which remain illegal under federal drug laws.

"At the very least, we should ease these restrictions to ensure that families have access to the medicine that their kids need," Bennet said in a statement.

The Senate's legislation would legalize strains of therapeutic hemp. They have less than .3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the substance that gives marijuana users a high. And they're high in cannabidiol - a substance known as CBD - which appears to provide relief for epilepsy and other medical conditions.

One such strain, called Charlotte's Web, gained national attention in 2013 after it appeared to significantly cut seizures in a Black Forest girl, Charlotte Figi.

Medicinal marijuana stops seizures, brings hope to a little Black Forest girl

The strain was produced by Teller County-based Stanley Brothers Social Enterprises, which has expanded rapidly across Colorado and established a facility in Uruguay.

Stanley brothers expanding production of cannabis-based oil to help reduce seizures

As word of Charlotte's Web and similar strains has grown, parents of epileptic children have flocked to Colorado to gain access to the oils - often uprooting their lives or causing parents to live apart while they seek help for their children.

"These families had to relocate to Colorado or similar states to gain access to this life-changing treatment," Gardner said during Wednesday's press conference. "What about the families that don't have means to move across the country? And our legislation today will address that concern."

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