Families are moving to Colorado, California and Oregon to treat their children’s health conditions.
According to the Guardian, people are even immigrating to the U.S. in order to treat disorders associated with seizures for their children when marijuana is outlawed in their home nation and are deemed “international marijuana refugees”.
The paper noted in one case, two year-old Tristan Forde and his mother moved 4,000 miles from Dunmanway, Ireland, to access legal medical marijuana in Aurora, Colorado. Tristan Forde used to experience as many as 20 seizures a day. The two-year-old has Dravet Syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy, and was forced to constantly wear a helmet – suffering seizures so frequently that his three-year-old brother would automatically go to the freezer and get an ice pack every time Forde had an attack. After treatment, Tristan went from as many as 20 seizures a day, to none—but the pair will have to leave the U.S. by the end of the year, when their visas expire.
Everything changed, however, when Forde began medical cannabis treatment last year. He went months without suffering a single seizure, said Yvonne Cahalane, Forde’s mother. “For the first time, it looked like there was a sparkle in his eyes. It sounds corny, but he just looked so much brighter.”
They’ll have to return to Ireland where the medicine that changed her son’s life is considered an illegal drug.
“We’re not going to choose the option of being criminals with this in Ireland,” said Cahalane, 34, whose husband stayed behind in Ireland for work. “We don’t want to do things illegally, and we don’t want to do it without a doctor.”
There’s no data on how many families have relocated from outside of the US to states such as Colorado, California and Oregon that have long permitted medical cannabis, which remains illegal at the federal level. But anecdotally, pot advocates say they know of a number of international families who have traveled to the US to try medical marijuana – with some deciding to permanently relocate after observing positive impacts.
Many parents, like Cahalane, choose Colorado because of the state’s reputation and the presence of reputable doctors and advocacy groups. And even if there are underground ways for families to access cannabis medicine in their hometowns, many parents are reluctant for fear of losing custody of their children if they get caught.
Many families who swear by cannabis treatments say they moved because they had exhausted all other options and tried so many prescription medications that did nothing or made conditions worse.
One woman, who moved from the UK to Colorado and then California, said cannabis treatment for her 10-year-old daughter, who suffers from a neurological disorder, saved the girl from a life of “excruciating pain”.
“She now lives a completely functional normal life,” said the mother, who requested anonymity so that she would not jeopardize an ongoing immigration case. She said she’s not returning home until she can legally give her daughter cannabis. “We’re British. We want to go home eventually.”
Cahalane, who launched a petition now backed by more than 8,000 people, has been speaking out in hopes that her son’s story will pressure Ireland to change its laws and allow her to return home with Forde and his medicine.
“He is just doing so well,” Cahalane said, adding that she suspects more states and countries will eventually follow in the footsteps of Colorado. “It will happen in Ireland. I just hope they realize it before more children suffer needlessly.”