12-Year-Old Files Federal Lawsuit Over Medical Marijuana
A young girl is challenging the federal government’s prohibition on cannabis—by suing U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Department of Justice, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Alexis Bortell, 12, has suffered from intractable epilepsy since she was seven years old. Her seizures were so bad that she was recommended brain surgery in Texas, but her family followed a pediatrician’s suggestion instead—move to Colorado, where cannabis is legal for both medical and recreational use.
The sixth grader found relief in Haleigh’s Hope, a brand of cannabis oil which she takes twice a day under the tongue. She says it’s replaced all the medications that she previously relied on, that did not offer the same relief. “I’d say it’s a lot better than brain surgery,” she told Denver’s Fox 31. “I’m over two-and-a-half years seizure-free. And I’m just able to be a normal kid.”
Her father Dean, a disabled Navy veteran, tends to five acres of cannabis plants that help his daughter and other MMJ patients. Dean Bortell told Fox 31: “When you look at it from a distance and you see it saving their lives, me, as a father and an American, I look at it and go, what are we doing? How could you possibly look at someone who’s benefiting from this as a medicine, and threaten to take it away?”
Under the Controlled Substances Act, signed into law by former President Richard Nixon in 1970, cannabis is classified in the same category as heroin and LSD—Schedule I—defined by the federal government as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
Bortell’s lawsuit—in which she is joined by former Denver Bronco Marvin Washington, a military veteran, and another young MMJ patient—challenges the government’s classification of cannabis. It argues: “As it pertains to cannabis, the [Controlled Substances Act] is irrational and thus unconstitutional.”
As the plaintiffs’ lawyer Michael Heller says, the federal government “made a representation that cannabis has medical application for the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease, HIV-induced dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and yet at the same time the United States government maintains that there is absolutely no medical benefit for the use of cannabis. That is of course absurd.”
The plaintiffs are seeking a decision in the next 18 months. According to Fox 31, the federal government already lost its first attempt to have the case dismissed.
Alexis Bortell is hoping that her lawsuit will lead to the legalization of medical cannabis in all 50 states. For now, she’s restricted to states where MMJ is legal. “I would like to be able to visit my grandparents without risking being taken to a foster home,” she told Fox 31.