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Alexis Bortell

A Hero for Freedom

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The cannabis community is filled with amazing stories of courageous people fighting for what they know is right. Cannabis remains federally illegal, even though the government holds the patent 6630507, referring to cannabinoids as antioxidants and as a neuroprotectant. The plant has affected so many people’s lives differently, and for some, it’s saved their life and ended their suffering. One amazing leader for the plant is 13-year-old Alexis Bortell. Her family moved from Texas to Colorado to treat her intractable epilepsy with cannabis. Alexis and her father, Dean Bortell, are taking a stand against the federal government. In fact, they are among several cannabis patients and advocates challenging the federal scheduling of cannabis. Grass Roots America Magazine recently had the honor of speaking with Alexis about her journey.

“I didn’t start treating with cannabis or hemp products until we moved from Texas to Colorado in 2015 and I had my red card. I treat with medical cannabis for intractable epilepsy for which there is no other effective treatment. First, I tried low-THC oil, and it worked better than the pharmaceuticals, but I still had a seizure about a month after starting it. My doctors switched me from a 26:1 oil to a 15:1 Haleigh’s Hope oil and added high-THC products daily to my medicine. I am now over 4 years with no seizures and I am only taking Haleigh’s Hope botanical (hemp) oil, Cannatol THC oil, and Mary’s Medicinals THC products.  Without High-THC products I would NOT be seizure free.”

Alexis and her father, Dean Bortell, are taking a stand against the federal government.

Although Alexis has been seizure free for over 4 years, there are still challenges she faces every day, especially because of the laws pertaining to her traveling with her medication and limited access in her home state of Texas. Alexis says, “I don’t see my family much except for my parents and my sister, and when my grandparents from Oklahoma and Texas come visit me once or sometimes twice a year. We used to see them in Texas every weekend.  It’s made our family here closer, but
everything else has pretty much gone away because I can’t safely travel to Texas with my medication (which I need to keep with me at all times, like an EPI-Pen) until the classification of cannabis under the controlled substance act is rescinded or deemed unconstitutional.”

The Bortell family are very generous and passionate about helping others. Together they own and operate OneLuv Organics, where they make luxury hemp soaps, shampoos and more! “OneLuv Organics is my company (with my sister Avery and Mom) that I started to share products we make and use everyday to help raise money for my Patches of Hope program. Patches of Hope provides USDA Organic fruits and vegetables to homeless and medical refugee families at places like the Marion House in Colorado Springs. We have a 35 acre farm and since cannabis law prevents me from collecting most of my dad’s VA benefits or even going to veterinary or medical school (can’t test positive for THC and have a federal prescribers license), I had to find something I enjoy and I could do after high school. Right now, we make amazing soaps and shampoos that we sell nationwide online and in some retail stores. This summer (June), we are starting to sell our vegetables at farmers markets near Castle Rock, CO. I hope to expand my Patches of Hope program and OneLuv Organics products to every state someday.”

Alexis has overcome and achieved so much and she does so with an admirable passion. Being part of a lawsuit against the federal government to allow access to her medicine for herself and the country is something she’s especially excited about. Alexis says she’s looking forward to, “Winning my lawsuit and having the same opportunities as anyone else  if I work hard. Right now, I can’t. I can’t legally cross any state lines without committing a federal felony, so even with my business, I can’t travel so I’m limited. I can’t even go in a post office in legal states because it is federal property. It’s frustrating and makes my OneLuv Organics work harder because we ship soaps almost every day and I have to either hire or ask someone else to take them to the post office. Teachers say you can do anything if you work hard but for people like me, that’s not true. I don’t think the framers of the constitution would have ever agreed to create “medical refugees” when they wrote the constitution. That’s why I am researching Article V Convention of the States and have some current and former state legislators that are and will help me. Some in “non-legal” states even. I think if my lawsuit fails, Article V Convention of the States may be the only hope for freedom cannabis patients have.”

Alexis understands there are so many people who do not have access to their medicine and recommends relocating to gain legal access. “If they are in Texas, I would recommend they move to Oklahoma. Seriously, I know it sounds terrible to have to pick up and move to another state just to be able to take necessary medication, but I think Texas leaders showed again this year that they believe in tyranny and not liberty. I think as long as Lt. Gov. Patrick and Gov. Abbott are in office, patients like me will never be Free. For everyone else, each state is different. If you live in a state that doesn’t have access to cannabis and most politicians won’t help you, maybe you shouldn’t advocate for cannabis. Instead, maybe we should all advocate for ‘Ballot Initiatives’ so the people can decide and take power back from the government. That seems to get legislators attention more than asking for permission to get a plant. I’ve mostly lost faith in government and believe it is time to remind the government that our medical decisions and private life are NONE of their business.”

“Cannabis isn’t a choice for me, I need it to live.”

For those interested in learning more about cannabis medicine, Alexis recommends, “Find a doctor that will at least talk to you on the phone so you know what you are talking about. One of my doctors (Dr. Gedde) at Vibrant Healthcare used to do something like that and still might. I wouldn’t mention it to any doctor in an illegal state. I hear lots of stories about doctors and hospitals stabbing parents in the back and it’s sad.”

Alexis is one of several plaintiffs in the Federal Cannabis Lawsuit against the federal government petitioning the rescheduling of cannabis as a Schedule 1 Drug. The lawsuit was filed against the Justice Department in 2017. Michael Hiller represents the Bortell family as well as the other plaintiffs. They include Sebastien Cotte, father of Jagger who needs cannabis medicine, Jose Belen, A united States Army Combat Veteran, Marvin Washington, former professional NFL player, and the Cannabis Cultural Association, which is a nonprofit. The Cannabis Cultural Association is based in New York who helps marginalized and underrepresented communities engage in the legal cannabis industry, emphasizing criminal justice reform, access to medical cannabis, and adult use legalization. Following the release that the Federal Appeals Court reinstated the complaint and declined the dismissal of the Federal Cannabis Lawsuit on May 30th, Hiller stated, “This case represents the first time in history that a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Controlled Substances Act has survived dismissal.”

He told Grass Roots America Magazine, “That this is the most important legal battle in which I’ve been involved.  Every day we work on this, we are reminded of how much is on the line. We are fighting for the rights of medical patients; fighting for principles of social justice and the hundreds of thousands of persons of color who have been wrongly incarcerated under the auspices of an unjust law; we are fighting for the personal freedom of millions of all Americans.”

“This case, which we’ve been handling pro bono since its inception, has cost us over a million dollars to prosecute. And I wouldn’t take any of it back for a second. Some day, when the history is written on how the laws pertaining to cannabis changed, I’ll know that we were a part of something important that helped improve the lives of others. As a lawyer, I couldn’t ask for more than that.”

We asked Alexis her thoughts about the lawsuit and recent announcement and here’s what she had to say. “This lawsuit may be my last chance federally except for my Article V work. If we lose in court I can’t really do anything with federal legislators because I can’t even go on federal property to lobby. And if I did, there would be a court ruling against me so if me or my parents could get arrested and we could potentially go to jail or my parents could be taken away from me and my sister. I want to be brave, but the thought of losing my parents or being separated from my sister scares me.”


OneLuv-Organics.myshopify.com

GRAM is presenting this article unedited. We did not change anything in the quotes supplied for this article. Only very minor edits were made to the additional content.


*GRAM is presenting this article unedited. We did not change anything in the quotes supplied for this article. Only very minor edits were made to the additional content.

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Turmeric

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Turmeric is a root vegetable commonly used as a spice in various Indian and other cultures’ dishes. Turmeric is in the zingiberaceae family, as is ginger. The turmeric plant is native to the southeastern region of Asia and commonly harvested in places like India, Sri Lanka, China, Indonesia, and Taiwan. It is responsible for curry’s signature orange color, and its vibrant pigment will give essentially any meal an orange hue. 

Turmeric contains a substance called curcumin, and curcumin has been shown through research to offer anti-inflammatory and other therapeutic benefits. The scientific name for the turmeric plant is Curcuma Longa, and likely where the name curcumin comes from. When people are talking about the health benefits of turmeric, they are referencing curcumin so you may hear the two names used interchangeably. Curcumin is part of a group called curcuminoids, with curcumin being the most active and the most beneficial for health. Flavonoids are another substance found in various plants and give these plants their color. Curcumin is a flavonoid and is responsible for providing that bright orange color to turmeric. In addition to providing aesthetic value, flavonoids are also strong antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties.

The Journal of Biological Chemistry published a study done by Sanjaya Singh and Bharat B. Aggarwal of the Cytokine Research Laboratory at the world-renowned cancer hospital, M.D. Anderson. The study found that curcumin suppressed NF-κB, a protein complex responsible for controlling inflammatory responses. In other words, turmeric shuts off the body’s inflammatory response. Anti-inflammatories can be beneficial for many different ailments, including chronic pain and digestive disorders. A lot of CBD companies even put curcumin in their products because of its benefits. It is believed to be a synergistic pair with complementary therapeutic properties. The thought is that the two plant medicines are powerful on their own; as a combination, they can deliver even more anti-inflammatory and medicinal benefits. 

Many people simply add turmeric to their dishes as a way to easily incorporate it into their daily routine. It is pretty mild in flavor and can be added to many dishes without changing the overall taste too drastically. Some say that turmeric isn’t strong enough on its own to receive the anti-inflammatory properties that curcumin provides, and therefore recommend a curcumin supplement. Research varies on that, so in the end it is just up to personal preference and your doctor’s approval. Curcumin supplements come most available in capsules. Pregnant women can safely use turmeric as an addition to their food, but should avoid taking high-dosage supplements. Those who are interested in supplementing with curcumin products should talk with their doctor first. 

M.D. Anderson Cancer Center did another study in 2007 exploring curcumin for cancer treatment. The study found that curcumin inhibits ovarian cancer growth and angiogenesis (the development of new blood vessels). It does this by targeting and manipulating the NF-κB pathway, the same protein complex responsible for controlling inflammatory response. According to a report published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “The nuclear factor NF-κB pathway has long been considered a prototypical proinflammatory signaling pathway, largely based on the role of NF-κB in the expression of proinflammatory genes including cytokines, chemokines, and adhesion molecules.”  

The trend with curcumin seems to be it’s ability to control inflammatory responses in the body. It does this by multiple pathways, but a commonly researched one is the NF-κB protein complex. Because this pathway is able to be manipulated by curcumin to encourage anti-inflammatory expressions, its potential for successfully treating various ailments is there.

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Psilocybin + Magic Mushrooms

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When many think of plant medicine, specifically those plants with psychoactive effects, they think of “magic mushrooms,” or fungi containing psilocybin and psilocin that can cause hallucinations depending on the dosage consumed. In many states, there are active efforts to decriminalize these otherwise scheduled substances, lowering penalties for their use and possession. But what value do psilocybin-containing mushrooms offer? New research suggests a range of therapeutic and psychological value ranging from the treatment of substance abuse to anxiety and depression management.  

What are Magic Mushrooms?

Magic Mushroom use dates back to 10,000 BCE and references continue throughout the era. Their modern popularity began when the term “magic mushroom” was coined by two etnomycologists who learned of a Harvard study on local doctors in Mexico using these substances, noting the substance’s ability to affect the nervous system. These findings were eventually published in Life magazine in 1957, and the term became the universal reference for psychoactive fungi and truffles, specifically those containing high concentrations of psilocybin and psilocin.

Psilocybin & Psilocin: The “Magic” in Magic Mushrooms

Psilocybin and psilocin are part of a family of psychedelic compounds found in magic mushrooms. Psilocin is pharmacologically active, and psilocybin is converted into psilocin when consumed or activated. Similar in structure to serotonin, there are more than 50 species of mushrooms and a variety of truffles that produce both the precursor, psilocybin, and the psychoactive compound, psilocin. Unlike LSD, magic mushrooms do not affect dopamine receptors, solely targeting serotonin sites

How are Magic Mushrooms used?

Magic mushrooms are often used for recreational, therapeutic and medicinal reasons. “Effects range from mild feelings of relaxation, giddiness, euphoria, visual enhancement (seeing colors brighter), visual disturbances (moving surfaces, waves), to delusions, altered perception of real events, images and faces, or real hallucinations.” Recreationally, this is often known as “tripping.” As an alternative health option, these fungi are being used for anxiety, depression, PTSD, and trauma, as well as psychological disorders such as substance abuse disorders, and science is beginning to back the potential for these applications.

Research on Mushrooms

Evaluations of currently available scientific studies suggest a growing number of therapeutic benefits and treatment options. “In the past few years, a growing number of studies using human volunteers have begun to explore the possible therapeutic benefits of drugs such as psilocybin…looking at psilocybin and other hallucinogens to treat a number of otherwise intractable psychiatric disorders, including chronic depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and drug or alcohol dependency.”

Magic mushrooms have been respected as a “safe & natural healing sacrament for millennia throughout Mexico, Central America and the world,” and are known to be beneficial for depression, recidivism (the tendency to repeat past transgressions), and encourages openness, creativity, as well as personal and spiritual growth. UCLA and NYC have done studies on the applications of magic mushrooms in the treatment of end-of-life anxiety and other studies have backed up the use of psilocybin and psilocin in the treatment of substance use disorders, depression (especially in cases of terminal conditions like cancer as well as treatment-resistant depression), and reducing depression and anxiety overall.

Best way for people to consume?

When it comes to the consumption of mushrooms, advice on dosage is about as specific as it was with cannabis under prohibition. Consumers must purchase on the black market and are subject to whatever may be available. 

“Recreational doses range from 1–5 grams of dry mushrooms depending on the species and individual strength of the specimens… After ingestion, the psilocybin is enzymatically converted to psilocin. Absorbed from the gastro-intestinal tract, hallucinogenic effects usually occur within 30 minutes of ingestion with a duration of effect of 4–6 hours.” 

My recommendation as someone who has used magic mushrooms both for recreational and therapeutic purposes, is to grind the mushrooms into a fine powder and either encapsulate them in small increments and/or combine with lemon juice. Capsules will allow you to titrate your dosage as needed with a recognizable increment, while lemon juice will expedite onset time.  

The Legality of Magic Mushrooms

In the United States, psilocybin is a Schedule I controlled substance, with no accepted medicinal value and a high potential for abuse. In contrast, the Drug Policy Alliance states that “Physically, psilocybin mushrooms are considered to be one of the least toxic drugs known.” With that being said, local efforts such as Decriminalize Nature – Oakland and Decriminalize Denver have pushed for and successfully passed initiatives and legislation to reduce penalties and make enforcement a low priority, as was done in the early days of cannabis activism. This has spurred multiple local and international efforts to “Decriminalize Nature,” efforts that we learn more about in this month’s feature.

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Ginkgo Biloba

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Ginkgo biloba is an ancient tree; its roots originate in China. The ginkgo biloba tree is also sometimes known as the maidenhair tree or the Japanese silver apricot, and it produces a foul-smelling fruit commonly harvested for its seeds known as “ginkgo nuts”. Ginkgo nuts are popularly used in Asian cuisine. 

The ginkgo biloba tree’s fan-shaped leaves are used to make ginkgo biloba extract, a supplement traditionally used in Chinese medicine, but has since garnered the attention of cultures worldwide. The supplement comes in liquid extracts, capsules, and tablets. The leaves can also be dried to make tea. The type of ginkgo biloba extract supplement someone takes is all a matter of personal preference, and depends on the user’s already existing regimen. If you do not already drink tea, a ginkgo biloba tea may not implement easily into your lifestyle, thus a greater chance for inconsistency or erratic results. But if you take vitamins or other supplements regularly, after a doctor’s approval you can easily incorporate an additional capsule or tablet into your daily routine. 

The 16th-century Compendium of Materia Medica or Ben Cao Gang Mu is revered as the most comprehensive text ever written in the history of traditional Chinese medicine. This text reveals that ginkgo biloba seeds were used as a topical extract for antimicrobial purposes on the skin. Traditional Chinese Medicine also uses the leaves for tea and attributes it to soothing coughs and activating blood circulation, as well as other benefits like respiratory and digestive ailments. 

A common use for ginkgo biloba is to preserve memory and prevent cognitive decline. Dr. Hiroko Dodge of Oregon State University at Corvallis and his research team followed 118 people for three years aged 85 years and older, in good health, and showing no signs of dementia or memory loss at the beginning of the study. Half took ginkgo biloba and half took a placebo over three years. The patients taking it regularly had a 70% lower risk of developing dementia. According to the study, the other variables included considered “basic demographic variables including age, sex, years of education, and living arrangement (living alone vs living with someone).” 

The National Center for Biotechnology and Information published a study exploring ginkgo as a potential remedy for anxiety and, “The authors reported a significant improvement in psychopathological symptoms. Response rates were 44% in the high-dose group, 31% in the low-dose group, and 22% with placebo. Additionally, the percentages of clinically significant responses were 81%, 67%, and 38% for the high-dose, the low-dose, and the placebo groups, respectively.”2

A 2008 study reinforced the idea behind Traditional Chinese Medicine that ginkgo biloba improves blood circulation. The study shows ginkgo biloba extract to improve coronary artery circulation in patients with coronary artery disease. The study notes, “GBE (ginkgo biloba extract) treatment demonstrated a significant improvement in maximal diastolic peak velocity (MDPV), maximal systolic peak velocity (MSPV) and diastolic time velocity integral (DTVI) compared with controls.”3 In other words, ginkgo biloba extract is a great contender as a treatment to improve blood flow. 

Like cannabis and other medicinal plants, ginkgo has terpenes and flavonoids. Both of these compounds have therapeutic properties, and can provide anti-inflammatory benefits as well as being packed with antioxidants. Anti-inflammatory effects can serve many different ailments, especially relieving pain of various kinds. Antioxidants are thought to protect our bodies from free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can cause harm to the body. Terpenes are also responsible for giving plants their unique and flavorful smell. Flavonoids are the compounds that give plants their vibrant and diverse colors, and are the largest group of phytonutrients. There are approximately 6,00 different types of flavonoids. 

A few years back, the National Toxicology Program released a detailed report on ginkgo biloba extract. It dissects the toxicity and carcinogenic properties of ginkgo biloba using rodent test subjects. The report made its rounds as proof that ginkgo biloba causes cancer, because the rodents developed cancer at high-rates over two year periods. Per the American Botanical Council, “Adjusted for bodyweight, dosage levels given to the animals were up to 55 to 108 times higher than levels of ginkgo normally ingested by human beings taking ginkgo supplements.” Many people have been using this report to warn against the supplement, but Bill J. Gurley, Ph.D., a professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Arkansas School for Medical Sciences, Little Rock said, “Almost anything will create cancer in rats and mice when it’s fed to them at high doses for two years.” The American Botanical Council also claims the ginkgo biloba extract used in the rodent experiment was of lesser quality, and not meeting European standards. 

Though this seemingly negative research on ginkgo can be explained, it is still important to discuss any kind of supplement addition with your doctor, especially if you are on other supplements or pharmaceutical prescriptions.

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