12-Year-Old Challenges Cannabis’ Schedule I Status

A lawsuit originally filed by five plaintiffs last July, challenging the federal prohibition of cannabis, is currently in session. The defendants in the case are listed as Department of Justice, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The plaintiffs are 12-year-old Alexis Bortell who suffers from epilepsy, seven-year-old Jagger Cotte who suffers from Leigh’s syndrome, Jose Belen who suffers from PTSD, former NFL player Marvin Washington who sells hemp-infused sports products and the Cannabis Cultural Association. Alexis Bortell has been thrust into the spotlight of the case.

The lawsuit challenges the federal ban on cannabis, claiming that the ban violates the U.S. Constitution.

How can a plant be illegal—the plaintiffs ask—when the federal government itself owns a patent on medical cannabis, when the government’s 1976 Compassionate Investigational New Drug program supplied medical cannabis to 14 patients, and when even Richard Nixon’s commission tried to legalize cannabis?

“Kids are growing up seeing this hypocrisy,” Alexis’ father Dean Bortell said. “. . . But we’re going to get it done.”

The official definition of Schedule I drugs is “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Thirty states now accept the medical use of cannabis.

The Department of Justice filed a motion to dismiss the case on Feb. 13, but U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein delayed making a decision on the motion. The judge recognized that lives have been saved due to medical cannabis. Hellerstein, however, appeared to suggest it’s a problem that needs to be directed to the DEA.

“I wanted to say ‘Thank you’ to everyone who showed up to the courthouse and people who supported online,” Alexis tweeted on Feb. 16. “Some days are very hard but I do read as many of your comments as I can and they help make me feel better even if I am sad. Thank you all for your support. #IStandWithAlexis

Cannabis activists across the nation are asking themselves, could this lawsuit be the one? Could it be the catalyst to finally see change in federal cannabis prohibition?


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