If you’re reading this and suffer or have suffered from seizures, or you are the family, friend of caregiver of someone with epilepsy; chances are you know that in late 2017 Jeff Sessions repealed Obama-era sanctions and declared marijuana a schedule one drug, on par with LSD and heroin at the Federal level. You probably also know that 12-year-old Alexis Bortell, who uses cannabis oil to control her seizures, and co-wrote a book about it (thus surpassing this bloggers goals, and making someone who is one third my age my idol) is part of a group that is currently suing Sessions.
What you may not know however, is that due to Sessions actions Alexis, who like so many of us with epilepsy simply wants to live some semblance of a normal life, now cannot visit national parks, fulfill every child’s dream of going to Disney World, or even visit her own grandparents in Texas. The restrictions set in place by Sessions’ move prevent her from visiting Federal property, and put her and her parents both at risk simply by traveling out of state. She is more-or-less confined to Colorado, the state her family moved to about three years ago so she could potentially avoid brain surgery by trying cannabis treatment for her epilepsy.
As is the case for so many of us with epilepsy (this blogger included), Alexis’s seizures could not be controlled by traditional medicine. The CBD oil, which Alexis takes twice daily, and carries on her in a spray form for use in emergency situations has kept her seizure free for nearly three years.
The treatment works for her, the only trouble is, when traveling across state lines her necessary medication may be viewed as an illegal substance, and her parents could lose custody of her as a result. All she wants is a relatively normal childhood. Battling epilepsy scary enough without fear of losing her parents on top of it.
This is just one of the reasons why Alexis, along with 6-year-old Jagger Cote, former NFL lineman Marvin Washington, and army veteran Jose Bellen filed suit against Sessions in 2017. To the best of my knowledge, results of the suit have yet to be announced. However, on Thursday January 4th, the Department of Justice issued a memo re-enforcing Sessions’ initial decision to criminalize marijuana at the Federal level.
The ending of this story (as it currently exists) may sound a bit dispiriting. That is not what this blog is about though. It is about optimism and action. Right now, we can take action by being like Alexis, and acting as advocates. We can educate ourselves on the medical benefits of cannabis, and share the stories of people like Alexis, and so many others who rely on this natural substance for a varitey of medicinal purposes. If, with research, you find you are not in favor of medical marijuana, be an advocate for epilepsy in general. We need to stand together, educate others, stand up for our rights, and the rights of so many others who fight this epilepsy battle each and every day.
If you want to take immediate action in regards to the Federal stance on medical marijuana, you can contact the Department of Justice. Simply go here, and send a digital form, physical letter, or make a call. The more the department knows about how this bill is affecting the public, the better the chances of them knowing the negative affects it has on the American people.
Stay strong warriors,
The Epileptic Explorer
*Editor’s note: The intention of Epileptic Explorer as a blog was never to become political. As someone with epilepsy uncontrolled by traditional medication, who lives in a place with limited access to medical cannabis, and is facing the surgery decision herself, this issue in particular speaks directly to me. My hope is for people to have access to all of the medical options available to them, so they can make their own, informed decisions on how to best treat their conditions in order to live their best lives.