COLORADO SPRINGS - They're known as marijuana refugees: about a hundred families who've moved to Colorado to get cannabis treatment for children sick with cancer and epilepsy.
A strain of medical marijuana called "Charlotte's Web" is bringing families flocking. It's high in cannabidiol, or CBD, and low in THC, the ingredient in marijuana that makes a person feel high. It's grown and cultivated in Teller County at a facility owned by six brothers.
Erica and Joe Rollins moved from Kentucky with their 4-year-old Emily who's suffered hundreds of epileptic seizures a week since she was 6 months old.
"I think her worst day was 250 [seizures]," Joe Rollins said.
The couple says they tried 14 different seizure medications, but nothing worked, not until they used Charlotte's Web. They said now that Emily takes a small amount of oil orally, her seizures are down to several per day or even none. She's finally starting to speak and to crawl.
"She had a streak of three days with no seizures at all," Joe said. "It's like after four years I'm just now getting to meet my daughter, and that's awesome. People have their positions on this, and they're always going to have their positions, but all I'm asking for, all I'm begging for is for people to do some research."
Some doctors say despite the success stories, the problem is there hasn't been long-term research.
"There are constituents within the medical marijuana leaf, apart from the THC, that in preclinical studies suggest there may be some true efficiency in patients with epilepsy," said Dr. Edward Maa, a neurologist and board member of the Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado. "However, we just don't know enough right now."
A long-term study could be in the works. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has proposed using a $7 million budget surplus to fund a study on the health effects of marijuana, including the effects on children with epilepsy. The Legislature must give final approval for the spending request becomes a reality.
In the meantime, the Stanley brothers, who grow and manufacture Charlotte's Web, are planning to greatly expand production by purchasing a new farm. They have a nonprofit called Realm of Caring.
There's a waiting list of about 1,000 people wanting Charlotte's Web. The plants should be growing by the spring and harvested by the fall.
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