Last year, Alexis Bortell’s book advocating the legalization of medical marijuana was published and distributed by Amazon. There’s nothing especially surprising about that: activists often write books about the causes they’re passionate about. Now, the marijuana advocate is filling a lawsuit against Jeff Sessions, as well as the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Agency. That’s certainly something to brag about, but it still isn’t unheard of – activists do file lawsuits against people they think are in breach of the law all the time. Here’s the thing that makes these achievements so impressive: Alexis is only twelve years old.
Why is she suddenly at the forefront of the movement to legalize marijuana? Alexis has been suffering from extremely severe seizures since she was seven years old. She suffers from epilepsy, and in her home state of Texas, doctors suggested that she would need brain surgery to prevent the seizures from ruining her life. But they also suggested something else. It was just possible, her doctors said, that using cannabis oil would relieve her of the seizures. So, she and her family went to Colorado and gave it a try. The result? She hasn’t had a seizure for the past two and a half years.
But here’s the thing. Alexis can’t get potent cannabis oil in her home state, making it impossible for her to go visit the rest of her family without being in illegal possession of drugs. This also puts her parents in a difficult situation. If parents are caught in a state where cannabis oil is illegal, they can face jail time, and even have their kids taken away. If she wanted to move back to Texas, her only option to have a normal life would be to have the brain surgery.
None of the FDA-approved treatments or procedures have been effective for Alexis. So, she decided to do something – join a joint lawsuit against the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. Alexis is now part of a lawsuit that aims to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes across the whole of the United States.
The lawsuit claims that the Controlled Substance Act, which prohibits the use of cannabis even for medicinal purposes, is unconstitutional. The lawsuit also includes the defensive end for the San Francisco 49ers, Marvin Washington. If successful, it would end the suffering of tens of thousands of people in the United States who are suffering from conditions that can be treated with cannabis – including many other children, whose stories you can read here.
The use of medical marijuana is legalized in 29 states. Interestingly, Texas actually has its own medical marijuana program. The problem is that Texas sets a limit on the amount of THC that medical marijuana can contain – and THC is the chemical that relieves Alexis of her seizures. The law in Texas states that cannabis medicine cannot exceed 0.5% THC, which is only slightly higher than the 0.3% federal limit on hemp products that are already legal and available online.
The Future of Drug Law
So, why hasn’t anything been done to give patients access to medicinal marijuana already? There is one depressing possibility: pharmaceutical corporations have a vested interest in preventing federal legislation granting patients access to cannabis for medicinal use. One study released last year by the University of Georgia concluded that medical marijuana is costing Big Pharma companies $166m per year, as it replaces drugs and treatments that the companies can profit from. It is probably worth mentioning at this point that President Trump has just selected former pharmaceutical executive Alex Azar as the next Health and Human Services Secretary. So, change could be a long time coming.
But here’s some good news for people who could benefit if Alexis’ lawsuit is successful: the tide in the United States is turning. Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of the legalization of medical marijuana. Many states have already legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes, and states like Colorado have legalized the drug entirely. It’s difficult to know what could motivate a government to deny a child from access to life-changing medicine – and it’s starting to look like Americans will take action to let people get the medicine that they need.