12-Year-Old With Epilepsy Sues the Federal Government

12-Year-Old With Epilepsy Sues the Federal Government

Alexis Bortell, a 12-year-old Colorado resident, filed suit against Attorney General Jeff Sessions last fall. It is a matter of life or death for her. Alexis Bortell has epilepsy, and Sessions has made it his duty to make it impossible for her to access the only drug that has kept her seizures manageable: cannabis.


Alexis doesn’t remember her first seizure but her father, Dean Bortell, remembers.


“We were literally folding clothes, and Alexis was asleep on the couch,” Bortel explained. “All of the sudden, I hear her make this shriek… a scream of terror. I look over, and Alexis is stiff as a board, on her back, spasming.”


Within hours at the hospital, it became clear something was seriously wrong. Alexis Bortell was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2013.


Terrible seizures forced her family to move from Texas to Colorado, where she could use CBD derived from marijuana. Because one of the products she uses is a THC-derivative, Alexis is unable to cross state lines, board an airplane, or set foot on a military base or any other federal building or land.


Biologically, Alexis’ problem is centered in the left frontal lobe of her brain. Normally, brain cells communicate to one another through electrical and chemical signals. Epileptic seizures happen when those signals go amiss.


Three years ago, Alexis began taking medical marijuana, and her seizures completely halted. Her treatment option is now jeopardized by a harsh federal crackdown on medicinal cannabis led by Sessions, the acting director of the Drug Enforcement Administration.


The court date was scheduled for February 14, 2018, at a New York City federal courthouse, over the federal scheduling of cannabis. But on February 26, 2018, a judge with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed the suit. But Alexis wasn’t distressed.


“We were ready. Smile. We know #SCOTUS [Supreme Court of the United States] is where we are probably going,” Alexis Bortell announced.


The Controlled Substance Act currently classifies marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic, like heroin. It is said to be highly addictive and has no accepted medical use- a conclusion rejected by 29 states and the District of Columbia. Several reputable sources claim that this classification is so baseless and problematic that it is actually unconstitutional.


“This case will continue to move forward,” Judge Alvin Hellerstein predicts. “Notwithstanding the outcome, we remain confident that the final deposition of this case will include a finding that the classification of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act is unconstitutional - freeing millions of Americans to safely treat their conditions with a plant that maintains their health and their lives.”

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