Otis Reed will soon leave Kansas for Colorado so he can get marijuana every day.
No hurry. One night last week, he happily chomped on string cheese and broccoli.
Otis is 2. He and little ones like him have become the new face of America's discussion about marijuana. Now it's about kids who suffer hundreds of seizures every day because of epilepsy and other neurological disorders. A growing number of health professionals, buoyed by new research and positive results, say medical marijuana, specifically an oil extract called Charlotte's Web, can help those children.
It's made in Colorado, but if people bring it home to a non-medical marijuana state, such as Florida or Missouri, they could be arrested. So, until change comes, families known as "medical marijuana refugees" are streaming to Colorado.
"As success stories get out and word spreads, they are coming here from everywhere," said Margaret Gedde, a Colorado Springs pathologist who has encouraged dozens of families to make the move from as far away as Florida.
That's what Otis' mom and dad are doing. Otis, who turns 3 in June, can't walk or talk. In February, he broke a leg because constant medication weakened his bones.
Kathy and Ryan Reed have tried everything to help him. Various doctors, different hospitals, two pages of drugs. Nothing worked. Then they heard about Charlotte's Web. So the family is leaving Baldwin City, Kan. — and jobs and family — in May for Colorado Springs. "Anybody in our shoes would do the same thing," Ryan Reed said.
Through the Internet and social media, the refugees find each other. They exchange stories, compare notes and help with one another's kids. A woman who moved last year from Gladstone, Kan., with her daughter said she has more than 400 families on a Facebook page.
Ryan and Kathy Reed think medical marijuana will be legal everywhere in a few years, but they can't wait. Otis needs help now, said Kathy Reed, who works at the University of Kansas.
"It's just unfortunate that we have to pack up and leave our lives to go get medicine that may save my son's life," she said.
Another refugee is Matt Jessee, of St. Louis. His 2-year-old daughter, June, suffers daily seizures from epilepsy. "Really, what else can you do when it's your child?" he says.
He is wrapping up law school and works for a legal firm in St. Louis. His wife, Genny, recently testified before a Missouri House committee considering medical marijuana.
Matt Jessee rejects criticism that asks, why try medical marijuana when we don't know whether it will work? He said his family didn't know whether the other medications would work either, and they didn't.
"We can't wait any longer," he said of the family's move to Denver. "Sure, it's a tough move. All our family is here, and we don't know anybody out there. But every day June has seizures delays her development, so we can't wait any longer.
"This is about hope."