This story first appeared in Cannabis Now Magazine.
Recently, 15-year-old Coltyn Turner testified before the Colorado state legislature and rode a bike again for the first time in years. Previously so ill he was confined to a wheelchair caused by the debilitating effects of Crohn’s Disease, over the past year the Colorado Springs teen has used cannabis oil on his path to healing.
“I’d rather be illegally alive than legally dead,” he says.
Coltyn’s mother Wendy describes her family as Colorado refugees. Forced to uproot from Illinois to treat Coltyn with cannabis, the Turners have found a way to put their son’s health first. While they appreciate the welcome in the state that allows Coltyn to utilize cannabis as a medicine, being forced to move has not been easy – especially on the teenager.
“He’s a prisoner in the state of Colorado because of medication,” Wendy says of trips other members of the family take to see relatives and friends back home. “Coltyn can’t go, he can’t go back home, he can’t go see his friends, he can’t go see his family, he is stuck in the state of Colorado… He can’t live a normal life in the place where he grew up and the place where he has six generations of family. It’s just tough.”
After Coltyn nearly drowned at Boy Scout camp in 2011, he developed a bacterial infection that doctors believe triggered his Crohn’s Disease. Once diagnosed with the disorder that affects the gastrointestinal tract, the Turners searched for answers as their son’s health continued to deteriorate. When doctors suggested looking towards holistic remedies, the family turned to cannabis as one possibility.
“We had already been researching [cannabis] because he had been sick for so long and nothing was doing anything right,” Wendy says. “It really can’t hurt anything, the only side effect that it could have, was that it may not work. The decision to go with the cannabis was that there wasn’t any side effects, so we just picked him up and left.”
A 2011 study conducted by a team of researchers at the Institute of Gastroenterology at Tel Aviv University in Israel was the first to report on cannabis and Crohn’s Disease. Within the study, 70 percent of participants showed dramatic improvement. In addition, in 2013, the The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America released a statement, calling for additional research.
Families like the Turners don’t have the time to wait for such research to be conducted. The decision to treat Coltyn with cannabis was addressed at a family meeting with his brother and sister, then 15 and 11.
“We sat them all down and said ‘this is what we’re going to do, we’re going to try this cannabis and what cannabis is, is marijuana,” Wendy said, explaining that the kids didn’t care what the treatment was, only that Coltyn could be healthy.
Coltyn and his father Tommy left for Colorado a month later.
“We’re probably two of the biggest hypocrites, when it comes to marijuana use, that you’d ever meet because we were so against it when we were in Illinois,” Wendy says. “We never really believed that it was a bad substance, we always just believed that it was illegal and if you get caught with it, you get in trouble. We were a new family, we didn’t want anything to happen to our children and we own a gym full of little bitty gymnasts and we wanted to be the right people and do the right thing. We were just abiding by the law.”
When the Turners researched cannabis and how it might help they made the difficult decision to send Coltyn and his father four states away for treatment.
“I knew in my heart that this was the right thing to do,” Wendy says. “You would do anything for your kid.”
The gamble paid off. Coltyn started his treatment with cannabis through the state’s medical marijuana program in March and by July was climbing Blue Mountain.
“That was amazing to me. I was so happy for him,” Wendy says as she begins to cry. “It’s difficult, just even thinking about it. It’s amazing.”
Coltyn describes his experience in a similar way.
“It’s great because I can finally do stuff that I wasn’t able to a long time ago, like I can finally ride my bike after three or four years, shovel snow, hike mountains and it’s just amazing,” he says.
While they still have the support of their community and family back home, the Turners are also building a new support group of fellow cannabis refugees in Colorado Springs. They frequently host families visiting Colorado from non-medical states who are also seeking answers for their children’s health issues with cannabis.
“It’s had a larger positive effect on me than any other pharmaceuticals have, and the pharmaceuticals, all they did was make it worse,” Coltyn says.
While he’s not one for many words Coltyn has made a video that demonstrates his healing and shows the cannabis he takes. The video is proof enough, Coltyn believes as he closes with a shrug, “Any questions?”