DENVER – Growing up in Texas, the threat of seizures always prevented Alexis Bortell from riding a bicycle.
“There’s a big difference, because in Colorado I’ve had a decrease in seizures, and in Texas I had them every day,” the nine-year-old told us.
No seizures means no restrictions on bikes.
A frightening seizure that Alexis experienced in February prompted the Bortells to move from Rowlett to a Denver suburb.
“I thought I was going to lose her,” dad Dean Bortell explained.
The episode lasted longer than usual. Her frantic mom and dad called 911.
That scare is why they moved West, and they won’t come back home without cannabis oil — medical marijuana.
“It just makes me happy sometimes… a little bit hungry,” Alexis said when asked whether the cannabis oil ever makes her feel different.
Twice a day, her mother fills a syringe and Alexis holds her nose.
“Ugh. I don’t like this,” she complained to her mom.
Alexis always chases the earthy taste with a glass of apple juice.
“We’re not seeing symptom reduction,” Dean Bortell said. “We’re seeing symptom elimination.”
The results from medical marijuana are remarkable for Alexis. Seizures have gone from once a day in Texas to once a month in Colorado.
“I’m not staying in bed and having seizures,” Alexis said. “I am able to ride bikes and do the things I wasn’t able to before.”
Cannabis oil calms her brain activity, which is something no pharmaceutical available legally in Texas could accomplish.
Jason Whitely visits with a family from Rowlett, Texas who moved to Colorado so their daughter could get relief from epileptic seizures by using a form of medical marijuana.
The nine-year-old’s prescription is a 15:1 mixture of CBD oil and THC. THC is the controversial ingredient that can produce a high.
“It can,” Dean Bortell said. “But put it in perspective: Every anti-epileptic drug she was on produced a high.”
Bortell and Alexis’ doctor agree that the ability to adjust her THC dosage higher or lower has proven beneficial for the girl. He added that a month’s supply of cannabis oil costs $160 — no insurance needed.
Just outside Boulder in a 1950s-era missile silo, Jason Cranford and his staff cultivate thousands of pot plants for medical marijuana to treat people suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease.
But six acres nearby grow that special strain he created for epileptics called Haleigh’s Hope.
Cranford, 41, a Georgia native, is more of a researcher than a farmer. He is quadrupling production from 5,000 plants last year to 20,000 plants this year.
“Last year we almost ran out of medicine,” Cranford said.
A pound of cannabis produces 45 bottles of medicine. “I’ve treated around 200 children to date,” he added.
To create the medical marijuana, the plants are essentially cut up with scissors and then mixed with liquids such as safflower oil inside a special device.
“This pill is medicinal cannabis,” Cranford said, holding a small capsule in his fingers. “People aren’t rolling joints. They aren’t smoking bongs. They’re not giving bong hits to children. They’re giving children products like this.”
With proof that it provides relief for patients like Alexis, why are some lawmakers still afraid of it?
Gedde has the largest pediatric practice in Colorado, with two-thirds of her patients coming from outside the state.
“Having a small amount of THC improves the effect of the CBD [cannabis oil]. But the amount is so small, it does not make children high,” Dr. Gedde explained. “You could give a child THC and make a child high, but that’s not what’s happening.”
“Don’t fear this medicine,” Dean Bortell urged. “We are bringing in data and we are studying long-term use, but one thing you cannot dispute — and this every viewer needs to know — cannabis is safer than seizures.”
On Monday night, the Texas House passed Senate Bill 339, which would let patients like Alexis legally receive CBD oils. The legislation gets a third and final reading on Tuesday before heading to Gov. Greg Abbott.
Dean Bortell said the bill is a good start, but doesn’t permit high enough THC levels to safely bring his family back to Rowlett.
What Colorado considers a lifesaver, Texas still sees as a crime.
Riding a bike is how Alexis’ parents measure the success of medical marijuana — a Texas girl exiled in Colorado who is growing up healthy and happy, but not at home.