Press Release

Schumer, Gillibrand Urge DOJ to Grant New York A Medical Marijuana Waiver

Sep 29, 2014

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today urged the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to grant New Yorkers immediate access to a strain of medical marijuana mostly commonly known as “Charlotte’s Web” before legalization is implemented in the state. The waiver requested by the Senators in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder would allow cannabidiol, from the cannabis plant, known as cannabis oil, to be transported across state lines from Colorado into New York State. The request originally came to the Senators from New York families with young children suffering from diseases where cannabis oil proved to be effective in reducing pain and controlling symptoms. 

New York’s marijuana law was passed in July and will allow limited access to medical marijuana. It is estimated that it will take up to 18 months for the law to be fully implemented and for medical marijuana to be produced in-state. If granted the waiver, critically ill seizure sufferers would have access to medical marijuana far more quickly.

“For the many children suffering from certain types of epilepsy and seizure disorders, who are in great pain, prescription-based marijuana can be the only option; it is only fair to provide them access,” said Senator Schumer. “We urge the Department of Justice, using adequate safeguards to keep it out of the black market, to provide this waiver so that some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers can have a measure of relief from their suffering.”

“This is a common sense step for families with children suffering acute pain while awaiting the legalization of medical marijuana to go into effect,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I hope the Attorney General will use his authority to help ease the pain of these families and their children who shouldn’t have to wait any longer for an effective medicine.”

The Senators wrote in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, “Children suffering from severe epileptic and seizure disorders urgently need medicinal marijuana to ease the symptoms of this horrible disease, and these children obviously do not hold any imminent criminal threat.  We are deeply concerned that attempts by these families to secure the above-mentioned cannabidiol medical marijuana from Colorado will leave state officials, providers, parents, and patients vulnerable to prosecution under federal law.”

There are more than 186,000 New Yorkers who suffer from a form of epilepsy with more than 60,000 suffering from a form that cannot be controlled by over-the-counter medication. Twenty-three states havelegalized medical marijuana, and an additional eleven have legalized a form of medical marijuana that is rich in Cannabidiol (CBD) and low in Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). 

Colorado has developed a strain of medical marijuana, commonly referred to as “Charlotte’s Web” that has successfully treated children with Dravet’s syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand have requested a waiver to prohibit prosecution for transporting medical marijuana into New York State, while the law takes effect and legal medical marijuana is produced in-state.

The full text of Senator Schumer and Gillibrand’s letter to the Department of Justice is below:

Dear Attorney General Holder,


We write to bring to your attention to an issue facing children in New York suffering from a handful of rare pediatric epileptic and seizure disorders that can be alleviated by cannabidiol, otherwise known as cannabis oil, made from the cannabis plant.


Medical marijuana growers and providers in Colorado have successfully developed a strain of marijuana, most commonly known as “Charlotte’s Web,” that is being used to treat children with epileptic and seizure disorders. In June of this year, New York passed legislation that would allow limited access to medical marijuana; however, because of the gradual implementation of the law, this type of low in THC medical marijuana is not yet available in New York.


In an August 2013 memo, the Department of Justice signaled that law enforcement agencies should use prosecutorial discretion in cases involving legalized marijuana. We understand that law enforcement agencies must continue to be vigilant in marijuana prosecutions when it serves as a source of revenue to criminal enterprises, gangs, cartels and the like.  However, children suffering from severe epileptic and seizure disorders urgently need medicinal marijuana to ease the symptoms of this horrible disease, and these children obviously do not hold any imminent criminal threat.  We are deeply concerned that attempts by these families to secure the above-mentioned cannabidiol medical marijuana from Colorado will leave state officials, providers, parents, and patients vulnerable to prosecution under federal law.

As Members of Congress whose constituents suffer from these illnesses, we feel that the federal government ought to do what it can to help these children. Therefore, we are requesting that you provide the State of New York with a waiver that would prohibit federal prosecution for the importation of Cannabidol in the rare cases where medical marijuana is imported between two states with legalized medical marijuana, and the amount is small, finite and prescription-based. 

This measure is a healthcare imperative for those who suffer from this condition and will greatly improve the lives of these children. Thank you for your continued efforts to improve the lives of American citizens, and we look forward to hearing from you on this important matter.