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Highlights from the Hill September 30, 2016

DEA Won’t Reschedule Cannabis to Improve Access for Research

On Thursday, August 11, 2016 the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced it would not reschedule cannabis, but would expand the number of sites that can grow cannabis for research. We are disappointed with the announcement because removing cannabis from Schedule I in the Controlled Substances Act would paved the way for new treatments as well as much needed information that can help families make informed choices about medical cannabis.

We are encouraged that the DEA is considering expanding the number of sites that can grow cannabis for research and will closely monitor the implementation of the proposed expansion. Expansion criteria should not be so burdensome and it does not lead to meaningful expansion of growing sites. Currently it is difficult for scientists and researchers to laboratory-based research studies to better understand how cannabinoid compounds might be working in the brain and to organize clinical trials involving cannabis because it is a Schedule I substance and only the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) can cultivate cannabis for medical research.

While the DEA acknowledged some promise for CBD for epilepsy and seizures, they looked at a limited number of studies -- none in epilepsy or children, and none published since 2013. Recent studies and preliminary findings from clinical trials involving cannabis have shown minimal side effects or abuse potential for CBD when used to treat uncontrolled seizures.

The Epilepsy Foundation will continue to advocate for removing federal barriers to cannabis research and policies that promote innovation for the nearly one million people living with uncontrolled seizures. You can our press release on the DEA announcement at www.epilepsy.com/cannabis.  

Amtrak Settles Epilepsy Discrimination Case

The National Railroad Passenger Association, better known as Amtrak, recently settled a disability discrimination lawsuit involving a job applicant with epilepsy. The lawsuit, filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), involved Shawn Moe. 

In April 2013, Moe applied for a job as a Machinist Journeyman at Amtrak’s mechanical yard in Seattle, Washington.  Amtrak provided a conditional offer of employment, but withdrew the offer after Moe reported a history of epilepsy during a post-offer medical examination.  Amtrak cited safety concerns as its justification for withdrawing the offer.  However, Amtrak failed to consider that Moe had been seizure free with medication for years and that Moe received clearance from his neurologist, who assessed that he could perform all the duties of the job, including work on machinery and heights.

EEOC filed the lawsuit in August 2015 after attempts to reach a pre-litigation settlement failed. The lawsuit was recently settled through a consent decree, which awards Moe with $112,000 in compensatory damages and lost wages.  Amtrak also agreed to implement a modified ADA policy and train its staff on hiring and assessing for reasonable accommodations. This case is a major victory for job applicants and employees with epilepsy. 

EEOC’s press release about the settlement can be viewed here.

Reviewed on September 2016