Despite the fact that the compound CBD itself is legal nation-wide in the US, there remains extreme variations in the ease of access in actually obtaining it. From state to state, the ability of families in need to purchase CBD tinctures, topicals or concentrates, even those with well under the legal limit of THC, varies so much, that the term CBD Medical Refugee already brings to mind the image of families uprooting lives and moving to states like Colorado in order to secure needed medical treatment. And patients needing more THC to control conditions like extreme epilepsy, must then work with the often confusing medical marijuana laws that vary state by state as well.
These news stories are becoming some of the most poignant special interest pieces, with media outlets like VICE publishing feature pieces on the lives of many who have made the difficult decision to transplant themselves across state lines in order to access CBD treatments. Colorado, Oregon and Washington are becoming medical havens for those that have found CBD to be a miracle treatment for conditions like the drug resistant form of epilepsy known as Dravet’s Syndrome, that has been behind CBD’s rise to prominence in the public media.
What these families’ stories highlight is both the growing acceptance, and need, for cannabis based treatment, and also the ongoing difficulties many face with getting the medicine that is, in many cases, making life with disabling chronic illnesses able to be fully lived again.
One such story recently became the life force behind a bill signed into law in Georgia, when the governor signed the Haleigh Hope Act, in a ceremony on the steps of the Georgia capital, surrounded by families whose children all rely on CBD for managing intractable illnesses. As VICE news reported :
“Republican State Representative Allen Peake, who championed the bill and was also in attendance, turned to the families on the staircase and said, “You can come home now!”
He was addressing the many families that had left Georgia, heading to Colorado as medical marijuana refugees. Those in attendance included Haleigh Cox, the namesake of the Haleigh Hope Act, and her mother Janea Cox, who had moved the family after traditional treatments had failed to help with Haleigh’s condition, which included having up to one hundred seizures a day.
This heartwarming story, of lawmakers and families gathered together on the steps of a state capital to sign a medical marijuana bill into law, is being hailed by some as an important step forward, as the political community becomes more accepting of the medical properties cannabis has to offer.
However, the confusing patchwork of laws remains difficult to navigate, and the fact that families with medically needy children are turned into refugees in their own country continues to be both financially and emotionally taxing. CNN’s recent feature on Abby Muszynski and her family, that left Florida for Colorado after three years of fighting with Florida’s unreliable Medicaid System. “I feel like I’m being forced out of my home” said Abby’s mother, Kim, on the eve of their relocation. But she doesn’t regret making the move either, the cannabis tincture Abby has been able to get in Colorado has almost entirely eradicated her seizures, and the Medicaid program in Colorado has paid for all of it. (http://edition.cnn.com/2016/11/28/health/health-care-refugees-part-2/index.html)
As Vice reporter CJ Ciaramella so aptly put it “But if Colorado and other states are refuges for these families, they are also, in a way, an exile.” Being unable to travel across state boundaries with their medicines, these transplants are often unable to visit family, friends, their entire support groups in the states they left.
The medical properties of CBD are no longer in dispute, the science behind the discovery of the Endocannabinoid System and the role of cannabinoids in regulating cell function has an ever growing body of research behind it, but getting state Medicaid programs to recognize this is another story, especially when adding the THC compound to the picture. But stories like Abby’s and Haleigh’s may go a long way towards erasing the stigma around medical marijuana, and making allowing family’s in need greater access to the life changing care that cannabis treatment can provide.