Although Georgia has legalized medical marijuana, one family still risks everything to acquire the medicine their daughter needs.
Haleigh Cox suffers from a seizure disorder that doctors said would cause a short, painful life. She was unresponsive, unable to say “hello” or sit up on her own as a result of her condition. Cox’s mother Janea has noticed a significant improvement in Haleigh’s condition. “She knows who we are now,” explained Janea. “She knows her mama and dada are there and that we don’t leave her.” Haleigh is now able to attend school and therapy sessions, and is starting to paint and support her own body.
“The progress that she’s made with this medicine has been amazing,”
said Julie Sullens, Haleigh’s physical therapist. “She knows you’re there. She talks. She communicates. She told me ‘Bye!'”
The Cox family. (Hope for Haleigh Photo)
Several states, including Georgia, have legalized medical marijuana, but have no framework for licensing growers and distributors. This makes the possession of marijuana legal but no legal way to procure it within the state. In 2015, state legislation titled Haleigh’s Hope Act, named after Haleigh herself, was meant to solve this issue, but patients are still waiting for their medicine. “To have a medicine that’s working for her but it’s still illegal to actually get it, it’s really frustrating,” said Janea.
In the meantime, Janea travels to Colorado to procure the cannabis oil Haleigh needs.
“Of course, we’re breaking federal law by getting it on an airplane and flying it back with us,”
“You kind of get a ball at the pit of your stomach when you start going through security, and you just hope that if they find it, that they kind of understand why you’re doing it.”
Colorado and Georgia have some form of legalized marijuana, but bringing it across state lines can still lead to federal penalties, including those for drug trafficking. Although TSA policy is to not actively search for drugs, they will refer travelers in possession of illegal drugs to local law enforcement. So far, Janea has only experienced slight panic.
“I forgot I had some in Haleigh’s diaper bag, and as I was watching the guy searching her diaper bag, and I remembered, and I was like ‘Oh no!’ and this is when it was fairly new, and I faked a seizure for Haleigh. I just started flipping out, hoping they would forget to look in that pocket,” said Janea.
Photo credit: Hope for Haleigh