It may be their last resort, but the Hopkins family is making a big move with full hopes they will find sanctum for one of their daughters in Colorado’s medical marijuana. Still, they’ll be packing their family minus one.
Kelli and Mike Hopkins, Covington residents and parents to three girls, two of whom are special needs with severe seizure disorders, are hoping to move to Colorado in mid-October, where they will have access to the state’s legal medical marijuana. Their youngest child, Abe, died in July at the age of six after one of the dozens of seizures he had every day.
They decided they cannot wait for Georgia lawmakers to go back into legislative session and potentially pass its own medical marijuana bill, which would allow selective use of an orally administered cannabis oil pill low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the component that makes you high, and high in cannabidiol (CBD), the medical component.
They don’t know if HB 885 will pass next year, and they don’t know if Michala, 16, who also has multiple seizures a day and who lost a leg to cancer when she was 14 months old, has a lot or a little time left. Before, every day was just seizure after seizure, but after Abe passed every one Michala pulls through grants one more day.
“Finding a place to live that works for our family as far as minimal or no steps, single-story, no previous pets in the home because of respiratory issues and allergies has been a challenge, even with many people helping us search,” Kelli Hopkins said.
The whole family will move to Colorado, but Mike Hopkins will have to fly back to Georgia weekly to continue his job to support the family, returning on weekends to help Kelli take care of their children.
Kelli Hopkins said they will incur moving costs and will have to pay monthly housing costs and utilities for two properties. They will have additional medical bills while in Colorado from out-of-network doctors, appointments and medications. Travel costs will pile up with Mike Hopkins’ weekly flights.
They applied to the Journey of Hope Fund, which is a foundation started by Rep. Allen Peake, who co-wrote HB 885, to help Georgia families relocate to Colorado to get medical marijuana.
She said if it helps Michala, even in the slightest, it will all be worth it.
“Waiting is not an option”
“We don’t expect 100 percent support from everyone,” she said on her blog that describes her and her family’s experiences and fights to spread awareness of the fight for medical marijuana in Georgia. “We know that some people will never understand it. We welcome questions to better understand the cannabis oil or why we cannot get it legally in Georgia, but please do not tear us down or be negative about us doing what we feel led to do.
“This is not a knee jerk response that took place after Abe died. We are not entering into this without a great deal of prayer. We held onto hope that Georgia would do the right thing in 2014. When it didn’t pass, we started the process to get Michala and Abe into the Epidiolex study. The one that Georgia State Rep. Sharon Cooper said we would be able to do at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta before the end of the year. Yes, she told it to our faces while we were at the capital waiting to get all three of our children in wheelchairs on the elevator.
“It’s too late for Abe, and it doesn’t look like Michala is going to be able to get into it. Waiting is not an option at this point.”
They will not only be loaded with added expenses. Hopkins said they are dealing with the added stress of having the family apart when Mike is at work and “leaving our support system, church family, our friends and the comforts of a town where we were born and raised.”
The plan is to give Michala three months on medical marijuana in Colorado and see how she responds. The family attended a conference in Chicago the weekend before Abe died and heard from parents who saw the medicine reduce their children’s seizures by at least half.
“If there is no improvement at all after three months, we will move back home,” Hopkins said. “We are expecting a great response, so then we will stay as long as it takes. Hopefully that will be a reasonable amount of time if Georgia passes the medical marijuana bill.”