Texas cannabis refugees fight for medical cannabis legalization

Image Credit: "ST-3-bud" by Hupu2 - Horsma / Hamppuforum

Image Credit: “ST-3-bud” by Hupu2 – Horsma / Hamppuforum

Dallas, Texas (TFC)- As a federal medical marijuana bill captures the minds of pro cannabis activists, Texas has introduced multiple bills to legalize medical cannabis. While medical marijuana is debated one family has joined thousands in leaving their homes, moving to Colorado to get the only treatment that keeps their nine-year-old daughter vibrant and happy.

The Bortell family was having a routine day in their home outside Dallas, Texas when their entire world changed. As the family folded laundry Dean Bortell heard his wife screaming. What he saw next is any parent’s worst nightmare. Speaking to KVUE, Bortell recalled, “I look over and Alexis has literally gone vertical. She’s stiff as a board and mom’s holding her. We get her down on the couch and she’s shaking.”

Alexis was rushed to hospital and eventually diagnosed with epilepsy. Prescribed with Carbatrol and then Depakote, Alexis’ nightly seizures turned into attacks that lasted throughout the day; she developed tremors, and her personality changed. Without any other option, the Bortell’s went down a road many other families hesitantly take. They packed their bags and left Texas becoming yet another family that was turned into cannabis refugees.

Speaking on the phone from Colorado, Bortell spoke of the sacrifice the family made by moving out of a state where, “the whole side,” of his wife’s family lives; “(Alexis’) school’s in Dallas, her church is in Dallas and she literally had to leave that all behind because of a plant.”

Bortell is an U.S Navy veteran and conservative Christian, who had to take a stance that many who consider themselves Christians do not take. Explaining how a God fearing Christian could support the medical legalization of a drug, Bortell cited the words of Ann Lee of Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition by saying, “Medical cannabis is a pro life issue. If you think about pro life, it’s cradle to the grave care of a person- pro life can’t just be about abortion- it’s got to be taking care of people with the best of our abilities.”

Bortell is from a state where depending on how much cannabis is possessed or sold, a suspect can face anywhere from 180 days in jail, or 99 years in jail, however, he is not alone in his medical cannabis views with 77% of Texans polled supporting the legalization of medical cannabis, attitudes are changing, and two separate bills have been introduced in the state.

One bill, HB 892 from Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, and Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler would legalize medical cannabis for epilepsy and other chronic medical conditions. The legislation would not allow dispensaries to open until 2018. However; that is not the sole reason why Bortell is against the bill.

“The bill if passed won’t allow her to come home because they limit the ration to 20 parts CBD to one part THC- Alexis is taking 15 parts CBD to one part THC, so she would be disqualified because her doctors prescribe her a ratio the bill won’t allow.”

HB 892 is a compromised bill to make conservative Texans accept legal medical marijuana, but the common ground it seeks is legislative failure. The bill makes parents, and adults exhaust every single pharmaceutical option before medical cannabis is prescribed. This means children like Alexis, suffering from epilepsy, or other diseases could be poisoned by dozens of pharmaceuticals, having their organs destroyed before finally being given a medicine that can best treat their disease.

Thankfully a bill proposed by Democratic Representatives Marisa Márquez and Mary González brings more to the plate than HB 892 and Márquez seems to be on the right side of the issue in claiming, “By continuing to deny access to patients, we limit the rights of families to seek the best possible treatment for conditions that do not respond to other drugs or therapies. We should create paths, and not obstacles, in allowing doctors to recommend medicine that has been shown to work.”

The bill presented by the representatives allows for patients who have conditions not mentioned in the bill to be allowed to petition for inclusion of the disease in question, with proof cannabis can treat what ails the petitioner. Even more important the bill would allow for dispensaries to open immediately after the bill is signed. HB 3785 and the companion Senate bill is one piece of legislation the Bortell’s support.

Like hundreds of families they had to leave their home because politicians in bed with pharmaceutical companies are not yet convinced, even when evidence continues to mount, that cannabis has medicinal implications. The Bortell’s didn’t move to Colorado to get their daughter high, they moved because they faced a choice of seeing their beautiful child deteriorate, or move her to a state that would allow her to become a normal child once again. Until Texas gets on the right side of history , the Bortell’s patiently wait to return to the state they love.