As lawmakers struggle with the question of whether to make medical marijuana legal in their states, families from Kansas and Missouri are packing up and moving to Colorado. Those families have a new name. They are called “marijuana refugees,” and they are moving to Colorado, usually, because they have children who suffer from severe epilepsy or some other disorder that causes devastating seizures, like Dravet syndrome.
Marijuana is legal in Colorado for recreational use. But, more importantly for these so-called refugees, medical marijuana is also legal.
Kathy and Ryan Reed have a 2-year-old son, Otis, who suffers from debilitating seizures. He can’t walk or talk, and he broke a leg early in the year because constant medication for his seizures weakened his bones. The Reeds are convinced that an oil known as Charlotte’s Web can help their son and reduce the number of seizures he has.
Charlotte’s Web is an oil that is extracted from the cannabis plant. It can be administered to a child by putting a drop under the tongue. It does not create a euphoric high, but if the Reeds brought it to their home state of Kansas, they could be arrested. The National Epilepsy Foundation says the treatment should be available nationwide.
In May, the Reeds will move to Colorado so they can treat their son with Charlotte’s Web.
“Anybody in our shoes would do the same thing,” Ryan Reed recently told The Kansas City Star.
They aren’t alone. Margaret Gedde, a pathologist in Colorado Springs, says more and more people are making the decision to flee the 29 states where they are unable to access the marijuana-derived treatments to help their children.
“As success stories get out and word spreads, they are coming here from everywhere,” Gedde said. “We see them everyday.”
Charlotte’s Web was named for Charlotte Figi, a 7-year-old girl from Colorado Springs. She has Dravet syndrome. According to CNN, when she began taking the treatment that now bears her name, the seizures from which she was suffering were reduced from 300 per week to just two or three a month.
Even with anecdotes of such promising results, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues to claim that marijuana “has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision” and that “no sound scientific studies support medical use of marijuana.”
Yet 20 states have voted to ease restrictions on medical marijuana. Lawmakers in Kansas and Missouri are currently considering legislation, but many believe it could be two years before a referendum appears on a ballot in Missouri.
The Reeds won’t be waiting for state lawmakers in Kansas to make a decision. They are leaving.
“You’ll do anything for your kids,” said David Reed, Otis’ grandfather, as he helped the family plan the move. “That’s just how it is.”