San Antonio ‘medical refugees' relocate for legalized marijuana to aid son

Families seek medical marijuana, moving out of Texas

SAN ANTONIOThey are called "medical refugees" -- families seeking asylum in other states to get access to medical marijuana. 

Most of these families have children with autism and epilepsy.

All the children in the above video have autism. Severe symptoms include violent behavior, no verbal communication, and epilepsy.

Vincent Zuniga, 9, is one of the many kids in Texas who struggle with all those symptoms, including having absence seizures every 10 seconds. At 18 months, Zuniga was diagnosed with autism, and just two years ago, he was diagnosed with epilepsy.

According to Zuniga's mother, as he has gotten older, his symptoms -- and his violent behavior -- have gotten worse.

“Vincent is on the more severe end of the autism spectrum and people don’t realize that there is aggression and hurt and pain,” Michelle Walker said. “He’s in physical pain and he’s very aggressive.”

Walker said the one thing that has helped Vincent have a better quality of life is medical marijuana.

Vincent's parents took him to Colorado for a trial period to take advantage of the state's legalized medical marijuana. His parents gave him medical marijuana oil that was rolled onto his feet. Michelle Walker said his behavior changed drastically.

“(It was) night and day," she said. 'My son went from hitting us and being angry, to being happy and comfortable in his own skin."

Because of those positive results, the Walker family has decided to call Colorado home, leaving behind their life in San Antonio so Vincent can get better.

“We have to leave so we don’t go to prison for trying to save our child’s life,” Walker said.

Walker, now a part of “Mothers Advocating for Medical Marijuana for Autism,” said her family won’t be alone. 

"If someone doesn’t support medicinal cannabis, then why do you want my son to die."

Many families from South Texas have already made the move, including the Sanchez family.

Steve Sanchez said he moved his family because his kids have a rare disorder called glycogen storage disease. He said they found the only thing that helps their children is medical marijuana. 

“There is no medication and there is no cure for this disease,” Sanchez said. “So for us, it was a no-brainer to move to Colorado for cannabis oil.”

As more and more families move to other states, Walker said she wants to see Texas legalize marijuana this year. She also has a message for lawmakers or anyone not in support of it: “It’s the hard reality. If someone doesn’t support medicinal cannabis, then why do you want my son to die."

Read more about current and proposed legislation

The Walker family now live in Colorado and have obtained a medical marijuana license for Vincent. 


About the Author

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with 15 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter and cohost of the podcast Texas Crime Stories.

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