Georgia Man Challenging Federal Government’s Position On Medical Marijuana

Photo Credit: Reuters

Sebastien Cotte has seen how medical marijuana eased the suffering of his son, who has an incurable neurological disorder.

Cotte’s son Jagger was as only a year old when he had to be resuscitated in 2011. Medical experts said the boy from Stone Mountain, Georgia, had brain lesions associated with a severe form of what is known as Leigh’s disease and probably wouldn’t live longer than another two years.

Jagger celebrated his 7th birthday in September. His father attributes his unexpected survival to the cannabis extracts that he received while the family spent 13 months in Colorado, where such medical treatments are legal.

Speaking at event in Anderson on Sunday, Sebastien Cotte said the treatments gave Jagger a “much better quality of life” by reducing the seizures and easing the pain associated with his disorder.

Last year, Cotte joined a former NFL player, a Vietnam veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder and the father of another ailing child in filing a lawsuit against U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The suit is challenging the federal government’s classification of cannabis as an illegal drug with no accepted medical benefits.

Oral arguments in the case are set for Feb. 14 in New York, Cotte said.

Sessions announced last week that he was abandoning the hands-off approach that the Department of Justice had adopted under President Obama toward states with marijuana friendly laws.

“It could be bad,” Cotte said. “Right now we don’t know what is going to happen.”

About 50 people attended the education session on medical marijuana at the main Anderson County Library.

Dr. Bill Griffith of Anderson also spoke at the event, which was hosted by the SC Compassionate Care Alliance.

Based on its current federal classification, Griffith said, cannabis is considered as dangerous as LSD and “more dangerous than the opiates that we are seeing so many problems with.”

“It just doesn’t make much sense,” he said. “It is politics, not science.”

Griffith mentioned last year’s report on a comprehensive study into the health effects of marijuana conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The study found that cannabis is effective in treating chronic pain in adults, as well as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in cancer patients.

Annabelle Robertson, a civil rights attorney and founder of the Indivisible South Carolina group, was another featured speaker at Sunday’s event. She is running against U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, a Republican from South Carolina.

Robertson said the state’s GOP congressmen refuse to vote for reclassifying cannabis because they are receiving “huge payouts” from pharmaceutical companies that “do not want a low-cost health alternative like marijuana to take over.”

Despite a lack of federal action, 29 states have approved medical marijuana laws. More than a dozen states, including Georgia and South Carolina, have adopted measures allowing a product known as cannabidiol to be used a treatment for seriously ill children with epilepsy and other seizure-related disorders.

SC Compassionate Care Alliance founder Jill Swing, whose daughter has severe epilepsy, said at Sunday’s event that she is optimistic that state legislators will pass a medical marijuana bill this year. At least three bipartisan medical marijuana measures were introduced in the South Carolina General Assembly last year, but none won passage.

“This is something South Carolina wants,” said Swing, citing a 2016 poll that found 78 percent of respondents supported legalization of medical marijuana.

Her group also contends that opioid-related deaths have decreased by 25 percent in states that approved medical marijuana.

Belton resident Scott Stone said he came to the event in Anderson on Sunday because he believes in medical marijuana.

“It has been proven around the country,” Stone said. But he expressed doubt that South Carolina lawmakers will approve medical marijuana this year.

“There are too many Republicans looking to stop it,” Stone said.