Pubdate: Wed, 26 Jul 2017
Source: San Antonio Express-News (TX)
Copyright: 2017 San Antonio Express-News
Author: Lynn Brezosky


A Texas girl whose family moved to Colorado to use medical marijuana
to treat her intractable epilepsy is among those suing Attorney
General Jeff Sessions over the federal cannabis prohibition.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the federal government should be
able to prosecute marijuana use and distribution in states that have
declared it legal.

An 11-year-old Texas cannabis "refugee" has joined a retired NFL
football player, an Iraq War veteran and two others in a lawsuit
challenging beleaguered Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the federal
government's stance on medical marijuana.

The 88-page complaint comes as Sessions' Task Force on Crime Reduction
and Public Safety is expected to release a review of ties between
marijuana use and violent crime. Sessions has been clear about his
opposition to cannabis, saying "good people don't smoke marijuana" and
threatening to use superseding federal law to crack down on cannabis
companies in states that have declared the herb legal.

The suit also names Charles "Chuck" Rosenberg, acting director of the
Drug Enforcement Agency, the DEA and the United States of America as

"This lawsuit stands to benefit tens of millions of Americans who
require, but are unable to safely obtain, cannabis for the treatment
of their illnesses, diseases and medical conditions, the successful
treatment of which is dependent upon its curative properties," the
complaint reads. "In addition, this lawsuit, if successful, would aid
in the restoration of communities hardest hit and most egregiously
stigmatized by the federal government's misguided and Crusades-like
"War on Drugs."

Twenty-nine states plus the District of Colombia and have approved
medical marijuana, and eight states plus two U.S. territories have
approved it for adult recreational use. The legal cannabis industry is
already valued at more than $7 billion and is expected to grow to $50
billion within the next 10 years.

But it's still illegal on a federal level, which forced the family of
11-year-old Alexis Bortell to relocate from Texas to Colorado where
that state has legalized stronger dosages of the plant to treat her
intractable epilepsy, according to the complaint.

Texas has approved the use of low-THC (the psychoactive compound that
produces the marijuana "high") cannabidoil, or CBD, to treat
intractable epilepsy. "Whole plant cannabis with high THC content" is
the only thing that gives Bortell relief from the "seizure monster"
that had plagued her since she was 7 years old, according to her complaint.

That forced the family to become "Medical Marijuana Refugees" in the
state of Colorado where she can obtain the drug, which jeopardizes
Bortell's future eligibility for free college tuition under the Texas
Department of Education, the complaint says. Since cannabis is
federally illegal, she is also unable to travel across state lines or
use family veterans' benefits at military bases, it says.

"She can't go to Colorado and bring it back home, that's against state
law," said David Holland, one of the plaintiff attorneys. "The low THC
CBD that Texas has just doesn't qualify ... This plant comes with
hundreds of different compounds and it's the exposure to all the
different compounds that brings the real relief."

Tougher federal prosecution of marijuana crimes is among Sessions' top
priorities. The Attorney General wrote a May 1 memo to Senate and
House leaders seeking to roll back a law that blocks using federal
funds to prevent states from implementing their own laws legalizing
its use.

"I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion
of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the
midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in
violent crime," Sessions said. He added that smoking marijuana has
significant negative health effects and was linked to increased risks
of psychiatric disorders.

The complaint traces cannabis cultivation use back to the days of
Moses and lists Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Abraham Lincoln and
Barack Obama as some of the plant's more well-known proponents. It
alleges that the Controlled Substance Act violates the U.S.
Constitution by classifying cannabis as a "Schedule I" drug, along
with heroin and methamphetamine, and traces the Act to Nixon-era
discrimination against minorities and Vietnam War protestors.

U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman Lauren Ehrsam declined comment
on the case.

Marvin Washington, who between 1989 and 1999 played for the New York
Jets, San Francisco 49ers, and Denver Broncos, has been working for
Kannalife, a Long Island, New York, company that has been developing
cannabis-based medications to treat head injuries and reduce opioid
addiction among professional athletes. The lawsuit claims the federal
prohibition bars him from expanding his business and participating in
the Minority Business Enterprise Program.

Jose Belen, of Florida, is an Army veteran who says cannabis has been
the most effective remedy he's found to treat his post-traumatic
stress disorder. But he says he can't get the drugs from his Veterans
Administration providers because it is federally illegal.

The other two plaintiffs are Sebastien Cotte, the father of a
6-year-old who suffers from Leigh's Disease, a severe neurological
disorder, and the Cannabis Cultural Association, Inc., a New York
nonprofit aimed at providing a "forum for persons of color to develop
a presence in the cannabis industry."
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