OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) - The use of medical marijuana has been the subject of controversy and debate for decades.
In 1996 California became the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal use. Twenty-nine states and Washington D.C. have since followed suit. Oklahoma is not among those states, but that could change come June as voters decide on State Question 788.
SQ 778 would legalize marijuana for medical purposes in Oklahoma. This comes three years after the state legalized cannabis oil. For many families, that simply is not enough. KOKH traveled to Colorado to meet one of those families, the Hilterbrans.
With three sick kids and no other medical options available, the family packed up and moved to Colorado. That is where they reside today, with hopes of one day returning home.
"If State Question 788 passes, it will be the first time that we've had hope that we can go home," Amy Bourlon-Hilterbran said.
Home for Bourlon-Hilterbran and her family is Choctaw. The thought of returning is enough to move her to tears.
"It would really be nice to get to go home," Bourlon-Hilterbran said.
Bourlon-Hilterbran, her husband and three sons moved to Colorado in 2013 after years of battling and desperately trying to control her teenage son Austin's severe epileptic seizures.
"Unfortunately, when Austin was four years old, he started having, instead of having one or two occasionally, he started having hundreds of seizures every day."
Austin was eventually diagnosed with a catastrophic form of epilepsy known as Dravet Syndrome. For 10 years, Amy says he was prescribed dozens of varying pharmaceuticals, none of which stopped the seizures. Several came close to killing the boy.
"We really didn't know what to do. We had recently seen a special from Sanjay Gupta on medical marijuana, and I told my husband, 'I'm taking Austin to Colorado to try weed.' That's exactly what I said." Bourlon-Hilterbran said.
So began the family's journey to save Austin's life. He is now prescribed nasal sprays, tinctures, suppositories and whole plant combinations. Within seconds of being administered, his seizures now stop.
"We didn't find any pharmaceuticals that would stop Austin's seizures. But the cannabis does," Bourlon-Hilterbran said.
It's a plant that thousands are now utilizing to treat a long list of crippling illnesses. Bourlon-Hilterbran knows this firsthand through her involvement with American Medical Refugees, a support group she and her husband founded in the months following their move to Colorado.
"We've now helped over 300 families from 39 different states and three different countries," she said.
They will continue to help hundreds more while in the meantime encouraging Oklahomans to pass SQ 788.
"We could not have Austin without cannabis in Colorado. And I just wish I could say that it was because of Oklahoma. I wish I could say that Oklahoma saved his life."
Oklahoma voters will get the chance to decide whether to approve or reject the legalization of medical cannabis on June 26.