CANNABIS CULTURE- The obsolete policies of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions are destined for a date before the courts. This time, Sessions is being taken to court by an array of activist patients, now plaintiffs, including a former NFL defensive end and an 11-year-old girl.
The case broadly aims to decriminalize marijuana by challenging the the 1970 Controlled Substance Act. That, however, doesn’t cover the motivations behind each plaintiff for getting involved. Each plaintiff has found cannabis beneficial and believes it is the key to their continued health and well-being. From criminal justice to medical access to PTSD, these are just a few of the reasons motivating plaintiffs in the 89-page filing.
Filed in New York City on July 24, 2017, the suit joins a growing number of proposed separate legislations aimed at ending marijuana prohibition as well as industrial hemp exceptions. The suit intends to reschedule and finally make cannabis a noted medicinal source. While other cases appear similar, Attorney Michael Hiller – representing one of the plaintiffs – believes otherwise. Hiller explained that, “This is the first lawsuit of its kind in the sense that we are making arguments under the 5th Amendment due process clause, we are making arguments under the commerce clause, we are making arguments under the 10th Amendment,” Attorney Michael Hiller said.
The Attorney General’s feelings on marijuana are well known and considered out of touch with modern American views. Today, 61% of voters believe in legalization while 88% support its medicinal authorization. On Capitol Hill, the Cannabis Caucus and others are leading the charge for change. However, this diverse class action suit might have the ability to change what government has not. These are some of the notable plaintiffs involved:
11-Year-Old Alexis Bortell
Alexis Bortell is the 11-year-old that became a trending topic after the suit’s announcement. Bortell, along with her family, became synonymous with the term “medical marijuana refugee.” The Bortells moved from their home in Texas to Colorado in order to legally obtain cannabis to eliminate her frequent epileptic seizures. The move to Colorado came after the family determined it was the best for Alexis’ quality of life. They claim that without access to cannabis, Alexis would be resigned to hospital beds while receiving ineffective care. Though the family states their desire to move home, they understand it would be impossible under the current laws.
Since the move, Alexis claims to be seizure-free in over 866 days. However, being unable to take her medicine in other countries limits her from seeing family in Texas, and go on out of state field trips. She told WFAA Dallas that, “I just want kids like me to be able to do what normal kids are able to do.”
Due to the federal government’s classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 narcotic, however, the family can’t receive the type of medical cannabis support they need. That’s despite her father, Dean’s, disability classification by the U.S. Navy. In any situation not involving cannabis, children of veterans like Alexis would have easy access to medication. The Bortells participation in the suit is aimed at tearing down these legal roadblocks for families like theirs.
It’s not just Alexis’ age that has garnered her and the family attention. Alexis is noted for not acting like the typical 11-year-old. She’s the author of Let’s Talk About Medical Cannabis: One of the Earliest Medical Communities Seen Through the Eyes of it’s Youngest Advocate. And she is noted for her eloquence and maturity on the subject. Attorney Michael Hiller describes Alexis as a “remarkable child” that is an active participant in this case. He added, “She’s quite obviously received guidance from her parents, but ultimately, the person who decided to move forward with this case was Alexis. She is not a passive participant at all. She’s an advocate. She’s a lion. She’s terrific.”
Former NFL player Marvin Washington
Former NFL defensive end Marvin Washington never consumed cannabis until years after his career. It was then that he learned about its therapeutic effects on a body damaged by years of damage from football. Today, Washington’s involvement in the suit is aimed at improving the targeting of African Americans while providing solutions to athletes, including children.
“I’m doing it for my culture because I’m an African-American,” Washington told Bleacher Report. “African-Americans and Caucasians consume cannabis at the same rate, but African-Americans get arrested seven times more.” He added, “I’m not a criminal, and I don’t want to go to federal prison for this plant,” he concludes. “All I want to do is help people.”
In addition to trying to right to criminal justice system’s impact on African Americans, Washington wants to bring medical marijuana to football fields from the NFL to Pop Warner. He told the New York Post, “My CBD can be taken by a 7-year-old football player or a 27-year-old professional.” Despite objections from youth league parents and officials, Washington, a current managing partner of industrial hemp CBD producer Isodiol, its cannabidiol (CBD) acts as an anti-inflammatory that won’t get them high. He explained to Bleacher Report, “I have a vape that’s 85 percent CBD—it makes my body feel well…When I stand up, I don’t have to unwind myself. I can just stand up.”
After spending 14 months in combat, combat Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom 1 and 2 Jose Belen knew he wasn’t himself. 14 months of being a Field Artillery soldier, dealing with death on a constant basis, changed him. He lost many from his unit, including his best friend just before Christmas. After a few weeks at home, Belen’s loved ones became worried due to his frequent anger and depression. After going to the VA, he was diagnosed with diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Belen now uses marijuana to treat his symptoms. Today, Jose Belen is a personal speaker and advocated for PTSD and suicide prevention. He is also affiliated with cannabis companies like Art420 to support veterans.
Six-year-old Jagger Cotte’s situation is similar to Alexis Bortell’s. Unfortunately, Jagger is unable to speak for himself. Suffering from the neurological disease Leigh syndrome, the Cotte family was prescribed oxycontin or morphine to ease their son’s symptoms and seizures. 95% of Leigh syndrome sufferers don’t make it to their fourth birthday. Beating the odds, the Cottes will celebrate Jagger’s seventh birthday this September. Jagger’s father, Sebastien, credits cannabis oil for extending his son’s life. “It’s been game changing for him. It’s why he’s still alive.” The Cottes contend that rescheduling marijuana would provide families like them safe, legal access to cannabis cures. Sebastien Cotte calls this opportunity “life changing.”
In 2014, the Cottes headed to Colorado to gain access to cannabis oil. Despite the arduous journey in Jagger’s condition, it proved worthwhile. “Jagger was doing much better when we were living in Colorado,” Cotte told the Houston Press. However, after 13 months in Colorado, the Cottes had to return to their home in Georgia. Today, the family continues to take cannabis oil despite it being illegal in Georgia. Cotte told Fox 5 Atlanta that, “It adds a lot of anxiety in our daily life just to think about when this bottle is empty, am I going to be able to get another one? How am I going to do it? Am I going to get arrested when I try to get my next bottle?”
He added that his family’s participation in the suit goes beyond Jagger’s quest for legal. “If we can change the law to help even one kid, one patient, it’s totally worth it.”
Though the case appears to be an uphill battle for the plaintiffs, the case may earn a victory in the courtroom. Cannabis Culture will update this story as more unfolds.