Dori Lovell has not seen her daughter, grandson, or son-in-law since March of 2014.
Her grandson Julian was born with brain damage, and developed epilepsy at two. Lovell’s daughter moved her family to Colorado after hearing the benefits of medical marijuana in cases like Julian’s.
“For Julian it has worked wonders, I mean he left here having 60 plus seizures per day…now he has less than a dozen,” said Lovell.
Julian became the face of Julian’s Law, which legalized the extract known as CBD oil. However, it stopped short of legalizing full-blown medical marijuana.
This Christmas will be the sixth for Lovell without everybody being together.
“It is very difficult to have three grandchildren running around at Christmas and opening their presents from ‘Nemo’ and ‘Poppy’ and Jules is not here,” said Lovell.
Thirty-five states now have recognized medical cannabis programs, South Carolina is not one of them. Even if it were, getting Julian here would be tricky.
“It’s still a schedule one controlled substance federally,” said Jill Swing with the SC Compassionate Care Alliance.
She says this time of year is especially hard because even though some states are legalizing it, traveling is problematic.
“Traveling across state lines does make you a federal criminal, that’s drug trafficking if you take your medication with you,” Swing added.
Swing is working with other advocates for the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act. It expands on Julian’s Law and allows for cannabis with THC, the psychoactive component of the marijuana plant.
SC Senator Marlon Kimpson is one of the co-sponsors of the bill and says it only has a chance if the bi-partisan legislation can get true bi-partisan support.
“I think this is an issue that might transcend politics if we can just look at the objective data so many other states don’t have a problem recognizing,” said Kimpson.
Even if SC legalizes it, federal action which would free-up travel doesn’t appear to be likely anytime soon. Lovell says her daughter and family would likely remain self-described marijuana refugees, forcing her to watch Julian grow up in pictures.
Lovell says she would give up everything she has if they could come home for Christmas, or any other time they want.
“It’s not fair, and it’s not right,” said Lovell.
The SC Compassionate Care Act is currently in committee and Swing says is a top agenda item for the new session in Columbia in January.