OCALA, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - An Ocala family has made the painful decision to pack up everything and move from Central Florida, across the country to Colorado for their young son. They say Colorado’s medical marijuana laws play a big part in the reason why.
He’s only 5-years-old, but for a moment, put yourself in Shawn’s shoes. Being that child, is not easy. “From the time he was a month old. All we know is hospitals,” Dawn Zuzio, Shawn’s mother said. “Doctors. Specialists. Surgeries. It’s hard.”
It’s hard, Shawn’s mother said, because he lives with Chronic Lung disease, dozens of medications, epilepsy, a hole in his heart, autism, and a trachea in his throat. “The list goes on,” Zuzio said.
In Zuzio’s eyes, Florida’s healthcare system for children like Shawn has failed her. This mother, who is fighting for her family, is making a desperate change for Shawn, all for his healthcare. Inside their home, boxes all over the house were a sign of what is coming. “I’ve tried really hard to find specialists that will help him. I just can’t,” Zuzio explained. “There’s no medical marijuana here at all.”
Medical Marijuana is one of the reasons Zuzio is packing up everything right now, and moving the family more than 1,000 miles away, to Colorado. “What I’m hoping for is that it will help with his seizures. It will at least slow them down,” Zuzio explained. “I’m not thinking ‘Oh my goodness. We’re going to go and it’s going to be a miracle.’”
She said she’s done her own research, and feels Shawn’s life could be better in Colorado. After almost 10 years in Florida, she says it is time to go. “I’m literally packing up my stuff and going to a state where I don’t know any doctors,” Zuzio admitted. “I don’t know anything other than what I hear from people that live there.” She adds, “I’m really hopeful that it will help him, but, I’m scared.”
Representative Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, said, “My heart breaks for the Florida families who need medical cannabis to keep their loved ones alive while a bureaucratic process in state government has failed them. There’s no doubt about that”
Representative Gaetz is one of the lawmakers who drafted and sponsored the Charlotte’s Web medical marijuana bill which lawmakers passed in 2014. It gives certain families access to low-THC cannabis. But, the rollout is slow. Gaetz said, as of last week, there are now Florida businesses who are allowed to legally grow medical marijuana.
“There’s no excuse for a 2-year delay. Everyone knows that, myself included,” Gaetz admitted. “So, now we’ve got to do everything we can to green-light the path to the patient so that people don’t have to make the decision to leave our state in order to keep a family member alive.”
Gaetz added “We should not be a state, in Florida, that has to send medical refugees to other parts of the country.” Gaetz said he believes patients will have access to medical cannabis by the end of this Fall. Medical marijuana is on the November ballot, too. “I don’t have time like that,” Zuzio said. “I’m going to bury my son. That’s my biggest fear.”
Zuzio said she is doing whatever it takes for her family. “As a parent, you have to do what you have to do,” She said.