The following letter was written by Sebastien Cotte, his wife Annett and son Jagger lived in Stone Mountain before moving to Colorado as medical refugees. We contacted Mr. Cotte for permission to publish this letter.
By Sebastien Cotte
My family and I are medical refugees – Georgia residents currently living in Colorado. It is our sincere hope this move is temporary, as we believe Georgia is moving towards legalization of the cannabis oil that has given my four-year-old son the ability to smile for the first time in three years.
The headlines that Governor Deal is supporting HB 1 are encouraging, but the details that his support is limited to only decriminalizing possession of this oil unfortunately won’t bring most families like ours home.
Georgia failed to pass a medical marijuana law during the 2014 legislative session, which was a huge disappointment to many patients and families. Since then, more families made the difficult choice to leave their loved-ones, in many cases splitting up their families, and leaving behind friends and local support systems to move to a state where medical marijuana is legal. Caring for a child with medical problems is beyond exhausting and stressful, and moving halfway across the country adds an additional level of financial and emotional strain for the families that the Governor and the legislature have an opportunity to alleviate.
I have experienced this hardship first hand. My wife and I moved our son Jagger to Colorado to gain access to cannabis oil to control his severe pain and seizures resulting from terminal mitochondrial disease. Leaving Georgia was extremely difficult: there was a possibility Jagger wouldn’t survive the six day road-trip. However, we made it and are providing Jagger with life-saving cannabis oil which has significantly reduced his seizures and pain episodes.
Since starting on the oil, Jagger has also shown significant improvements in his cognitive abilities and for the first time in the past three years, he is smiling again.
While we are encouraged that Georgia lawmakers are finally recognizing the need to establish a medical marijuana law in Georgia, it is saddening to hear that Governor Deal and his office will not support in-state growing. Instead they are asking that families risk everything to obtain medical marijuana elsewhere breaking other states and federal laws.
So while families might be safe from prosecution in Georgia, they are not immune in other states if they decide to carry the product across state lines, and if caught in a state which does not have a medical marijuana bill, state or federal prison might be their next stop.
Prosecution protection is only a viable option for the short term (a few months) but expecting special needs families to go across the country every few weeks to purchase cannabis oil for over a year or perhaps longer is a tremendous burden that many families are unable to overcome emotionally and financially.
Additionally, many patients who would benefit from HB1 have weak immune systems and therefore it is essential that the cannabis oil they obtain is safe and clean. The best way to ensure the quality of the oil is to allow highly regulated and supervised in state growing with tight regulations of the growing and extracting facilities backed by third-party lab results. By delaying this part of HB1, families and patients are forced to obtain medical marijuana elsewhere where its origin may not be known and quality and safety of the product are not guaranteed.
Gov. Deal explains that his main goal is to bring Georgia families home but by taking in-state growing out of HB1, many families currently in Colorado aren’t coming home to Georgia. Families and patients are not willing to risk losing their “oil” supply after having seen so many positive results.
In order to bring Georgia families home, we must have in-state growing in Georgia in 2015. Telling families and patients that they will not be prosecuted if they come home but not providing life-saving cannabis oil in Georgia, may be well-intentioned, but once again it leaves families with little hope of helping their sick children. And it leaves adults suffering from debilitating illnesses little hope of finding relief.
Medical marijuana is not only a life-saving intervention, it provides a better quality of life for those who suffer every day. Gov. Deal, you have the opportunity to end the suffering of so many Georgians, adults and children alike, by providing high quality medical marijuana produced right here in Georgia. Please don’t let us down and let those affected suffer one more day.