Medical Marijuana Refugees Leaving Marijuana Prohibition States at Record Pace in 2017
Since the legalization of medical marijuana across various states within the US, families from all across the nation have been moving from one state to another in an effort to treat their children or other loved ones. This trend has really taken off since 2014, reaching its apex in 2017 with hundreds of families relocating to Colorado and Oregon alone. These medical marijuana refugees seem to have finally found their voice, and many are speaking out about having had to leave their homes, extended families, and everything familiar to them simply to legally treat children with epilepsy, autism spectrum disorders, and many other mental health challenges.
The question now is, will states begin to legalize medical marijuana at a faster rate to stop residents from moving away and taking their slice of the economy with them? States like Ohio, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and the Carolinas are losing life-long residents and families who take new jobs and create new revenue streams for businesses in cannabis-friendly states—and soon, California will be among these states, making for the largest state within the Union where medical and recreational weed can be purchased and used legally. In the wake of this news, marijuana prohibition states simply don’t stand a chance.
Beyond the legal ramifications for those who choose not to leave prohibition states is the effect their leaving will have on the overall economy of the US as these families relocate. What will the long-term effects of this mass exodus on the local and state economies, and could it have a detrimental impact large enough to cause a recession? A single family contributes tens of thousands of dollars to its local and state government each year from purchasing everything from food and gas to big ticket items like cars and homes and everything between. As these families take their money with them when they go, the argument that marijuana is positively impacting states where both recreational and medical marijuana are legal can easily be made. The sales figures and taxes paid on the cannabis alone is staggeringly high, proving cannabis is good for the economy in that way—but how it’s affecting the economy outside of just sales is obvious—and it’s a massive boon for the overall economies of pot-friendly states.
While no family wants to have to move from one state to another because they cannot access the health care they need for their children or other loved ones, becoming a medical marijuana refugee is easier today than it was even just a few years ago. New networks, support groups, and medical marijuana refugee awareness all make it simpler for these families to find the resources they need wherever they are headed. And, in addition to making it possible for young patients to access cannabis that makes life livable, parents also have more visibility and greater access to other things they need, including new homes, new schools for their children, doctors within their new communities, and much more.
The droves of families that have moved to pot-friendly states can tell you: it’s not that they thought marijuana was a miracle drug, or that they were excited about using cannabis—it was the sobering idea that it might be the last and only hope for their child. Once this realization has been made, becoming marijuana refugees with some legal protection was the only choice they could make for the future of their children. Advocates and activism for the rights of these children have made some parts of relocating easier for some families, but it’s certainly true that other families don’t have the money to spend on moving, or cannot afford to leave the resources their extended families provide, such as childcare.
For better or for worse, states choosing not to legalize cannabis will continue to make refugees out of a residence. Once the governing bodies of these states begin to accept this eventual reality for families with children in need of medical marijuana, perhaps they will choose to make it legal—but the sad truth is, they may have to lose millions in revenue before they choose to do something about medical marijuana refugees crossing their borders.