Brookings Institute: The Medical Marijuana Mess

photography by Mark Williams Hoelscher

IN 2013, PATRICK AND BETH COLLINS WERE DESPERATE. Thirteen‐year‐old Jennifer, the younger of their two children, faced a life‐threatening situation. In response, the Collins family took extreme measures—sending Jennifer thousands of miles away in the company of her mother. Beth and Jennifer became refugees from a capricious government whose laws threatened Jennifer’s health, the family’s safety, and the life they had built together.Beth and Jennifer did not run from crime or war or famine. They did not flee from some country ruled by a murderous despot to a less dangerous place. They are Americans who found it necessary to move from their home in Virginia to another state in order to seek treatment for Jennifer’s serious medical condition—a treatment that was illegal according to the laws of both Virginia and the federal government.And so, in December 2013, Beth and Jennifer said goodbye to Patrick and to Jennifer’s older sister, Alexandra. They moved to Colorado, joining thousands of other people who’d gone there wanting to avail themselves of one version or another of this taboo treatment: marijuana‐based medicine. Their hope? That Colorado cannabis would do what prescription drugs could not—treat Jennifer’s epilepsy.

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