A cannabis refugee is a term referring to a person or a family who moved from one country, or one state, with cannabis prohibition laws to another country or state where cannabis is legally available. More often than not, cannabis refugees made the move from one location to another because they need to access cannabis in the treatment of a certain medical condition. There are also cannabis refugees who merely desire to consume cannabis for other reasons.
Families with epileptic children
The most widely reported medical cannabis refugee group are parents with epileptic children. More specifically children who are suffering from Dravet syndrome, which is a severe form of epilepsy, causing more than 20 seizures a day.
Seizures caused by Dravet syndrome, which is also called severe myoclonic epilepsy of infancy, can be difficult to manage. However, these may be reduced by anticonvulsant medications, including stiripentol, clobazam, valproate, and topiramate. There are also certain anticonvulsant meds – Sodium Channel Blockers – that are known to worsen seizures in most patients.
No current pharmaceutical remedies can cure this disease, so those who have been diagnosed with Dravet syndrome will have it for the rest of their lives. Moreover, in many Dravet cases, pharmaceutical drugs did not work for the young patients. And for some, these drugs have even worsened the condition.
CBD oil or oil from any high-CBD cannabis strains has been reported to calm these seizures and even successfully treat epilepsy altogether. And many parents are now realizing that they have a choice to save their epileptic children and improve their lives through CBD oil.
The problem, however, lies in the fact that there are countries and states that do not make CBD oil legally available in pharmacies. There are also countries that have already legalized medical cannabis but have set up stringent regulations to obtaining prescription or applying for medical cannabis license. Strict medical cannabis guidelines are just as big a hurdle as prohibition itself.
Because of this fact, parents who are desperate for a cure that works for their kids with Dravet syndrome are forced to uproot their lives and their entire families and resettle in places where cannabis is easily accessible.
For most patients and their families who live in countries and states where medical cannabis is prohibited, there are tough choices to make. Do they continue their current treatment plan even if it has not been effective? Do they just stop treatment altogether and prepare themselves for the worst? Do they get cannabis on the black market and spend the rest of their days hiding? Do they go to a legalized state or a cannabis-legal country and then smuggle the substance back and risk arrest? Or do they seek asylum in cannabis-legal state or country?
As more and more studies highlight the various health benefits of cannabis and CBD, more and more patients and families are choosing the last option. They decide to drop their present lives and leave everything behind, pack their bags, move to “greener pastures,” and start from scratch. They either relocate permanently or just temporarily but indefinitely.
Where do cannabis refugees take asylum?
In the U.S., the state of Colorado is the top choice for cannabis refugees, both domestic and international. There are also many patients who relocate to California, Washington, and Oregon. These four states have permitted medical cannabis the longest among legalized states.
Colorado, in particular, is chosen for its reputation as a cannabis-friendly state, for the presence of doctors who are knowledgeable and experienced when it comes to cannabis-based treatments, and for its large number of advocacy groups.
Moreover, in states like Colorado, Oregon, and California, efforts have been made to help cannabis refugees with affordable housing, which is one of the most difficult challenges they have to face as soon as they decide to relocate. There are also support groups that refugees or would-be refugees can go to if they need help with short-term rentals and doctors.