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12-Year Old Sues U.S. Government Over Access To Cannabis

A 12-year-old girl has sued the United States government over access to medical cannabis for her health and for justice.

According to her lawyers, it’s the first time a child who needs lifesaving medicine has stood up to the government.

In a 98-page brief filed in July 2017 by five named plaintiffs, an argument for cannabis legalization was presented. A hearing will begin this Wednesday in a New York Federal District Court. The complaint includes testimony from a 12-year-old with chronic epilepsy who is also a medical marijuana patient. There will also be a former NFL player who promotes cannabis as a treatment for players and who has invested in medicinal cannabis. They’ll be there along with three other plaintiffs.

The argument presents its case through multiple perspectives, including the historical accounts of ancient cultures thousands of years ago. Also mentioned are Thomas Jefferson and other founding figures who used hemp and cannabis regularly for a variety of reasons. The case also uses the Nixon-era material that cites cannabis was used to demonize the counter-culture movement and minority communities in the United States.

Alexis Bortell - Medical Cannabis Patient
Alexis Bortell

Additionally, the case contends that federal law has impeded the ability to conduct business in states where pot is legal. It’s in contradiction to the Constitution’s commerce clause. Alexis Bortell, the young girl with epilepsy, argues that the law illegally restricts her right to travel with her medicine in states where pot is not allowed. A third plaintiff is the Cannabis Cultural Association, a nonprofit group created to assist minorities in the marijuana industry. They alleged the law has been used for years to discriminate against them.

Fighting for Medical Cannabis

According to one of the lawyers who brought the suit in the NY Times,  “It’s the first time a young child who needs lifesaving medicine has stood up to the government to be able to use it. It’s the first time that a group of young millennials of color has stood up to the government and said the marijuana law is wrong and has destroyed their communities.”

Alexis is unable to attend the hearing on Wednesday. One of the attorneys on the case is looking to stream the courtroom coverage. She could watch it from her home in Colorado. She moved from Texas for easier access to her medicine.

“We might not have been able to do this 10 or 15 years ago,” the attorney said. “But the climate is very different now.”

This case gained significant traction last month after Jeff Sessions announced the rescission of the Cole Memo. It caused a major backlash against the move from cannabis advocates throughout the country. At least 30 states have some sort of law allowing cannabis for recreational or medicinal use.  Although Sessions meant to send a message to the industry, it backfired. It caused judicial nominees to be withheld from approval with no end in sight.

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