Twelve-year-old Alexis Bortell uses a cannabis oil called Haleigh’s Hope to prevent life-threatening epileptic seizures. She takes the oil orally by syringe twice a day, and always keeps a THC spray on hand in case she experiences an aura, or pre-seizure event. The auras happen maybe once every three to four weeks – far less often now that she moved to Colorado than when she lived in Texas. When doctors in Texas were left with no other option than to suggest an experimental lobotomy, her parents moved to Colorado. Cannabis had to be better than removing a portion of Bortell’s brain.

“I’m now over two years seizure-free because of my cannabis medicine. In Texas, our goal was three days, [and] that’s the max I ever got,” says Bortell, who’s now in the sixth grade. “It’s helped me succeed in school more, since I don’t have to go to the nurse every day because of auras and seizures. There was no medicine in Texas that would stop my seizures, and not only that, but they had horrendous side effects that would be worse than the actual seizure.”

Wise and articulate beyond her years, Bortell received an invitation from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) to lobby her representatives in Washington D.C. this past September. But she couldn’t go, and instead could only Skype: Since Bortell can’t go anywhere without her cannabis medicine, she couldn’t travel without committing a federal felony by transporting a Schedule I narcotic across state lines. What’s more, even if she could travel to D.C. – where marijuana is medically and recreationally legal – she can’t bring her medicine onto federal land, including the Capitol, national parks, monuments and military bases. (Her father, Dean Bortell, is a military vet.)

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