Why A 12-Year-Old Girl Is Suing Jeff Sessions

Photo: AP/REX/Shutterstock.
Alexis Bortell, a 12-year-old girl from Colorado, has a bone to pick with Attorney General Jeff Sessions — and she's filed a lawsuit to get him to listen.
Bortell has epilepsy and uses medical marijuana to treat it, but if she didn't live in Colorado — a state where both medical and recreational marijuana use has been legalized — she likely wouldn't have that opportunity. As of April, 29 states had legalized use of medical marijuana and only 8 had legalized recreational use. Instead of changing laws on a state-by-state basis, however, Bortell is looking for Sessions to make a change at the federal level.
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She's joined in her legal pursuit by former NFL player Marvin Washington, Jose Belen — a military veteran who was disabled in Iraq and now suffers from PTSD, Jagger Cotte — a 6-year-old who has Leigh syndrome, a devastating neurological condition that's almost always fatal, and the Cannabis Cultural Association, Rolling Stone reports. In addition to Sessions, the lawsuit names: the Department of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Administration as well as its acting director Chuck Rosenberg, and the United States of America.
Like the other plaintiffs on this case, medical marijuana has improved Bortell's life. Her parents moved the family from their home in Texas to Colorado so that she could be treated with cannabis. Bortell takes a cannabis oil called Haleigh's Hope orally twice a day to prevent epileptic seizures, and has a THC (the chemical component of marijuana most responsible for it's psychological effects) spray for moments when she can feel a seizure coming on, according to Rolling Stone.
She credits the fact that she's tw0 years seizure-free to these treatments.
"It's helped me succeed in school more, since I don't have to go to the nurse every day because of auras and seizures," Bortell told Rolling Stone. "There was no medicine in Texas that would stop my seizures, and not only that, but they had horrendous side effects that would be worse than the actual seizure."
The idea that cannabis can be helpful with epileptic seizures is supported by some small studies and anecdotal evidence, according to the Epilepsy Foundation. But it's difficult for scientists to do more in-depth research because of federal restrictions that still classify marijuana as an illegal drug.
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Bortell's lawsuit aims to change this classification, which would also make it easier for people like her who rely on medical marijuana to travel. Since marijuana isn't legal across all 50 states, Bortell has to choose between breaking the law or skipping her treatments if she travels outside of Colorado.
It's not likely that Bortell's lawsuit will change marijuana policy in the U.S. anytime soon — no matter who wins, the Rolling Stone says, the other side will almost surely appeal. And Sessions' history on cannabis — he once claimed that "good people don't smoke marijuana" — means that he probably won't make the change on his own.
Still, the lawsuit reminds us of why this issue is important, not only for improving the lives of people who need medical marijuana, but also for breaking stigma. Even 12-year-old Bortell — who uses marijuana for an important medical purpose — can feel the judgement from people like Sessions who think that what she's doing is bad. But maybe, she'll grow up to change it.
"Every time I look around my classroom, I think about what my classmates will be when we grow up. But there's nothing I can be because the government thinks I'm bad," she told Rolling Stone. "I know they're wrong. I do hope we can win this case. If that happens, maybe I can be a doctor, or if I need to, run for legislature."
Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity and would like to remind its readers that marijuana usage continues to be an offense under Federal Law, regardless of state marijuana laws.
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