Family of autistic child hoping Amendment 2 passes

The controversial proposal has many implications that are easy to overlook.

For Rose Terlaje, the upcoming vote on Amendment 2 isn't a black and white issue, it's more like black and blue.

Her 8-year-old son Antonio has autism and has hurt himself several times since he was just 18 months old.

"He has severe autism and severe injurious behavior," she said. "So he punches himself, head bangs, kicks himself," Terlaje said.

"It's constant, 24/7," Terlaje said.

On her phone, Terlaje has pictures showing the bruises and scabs Antonio has inflicted on his own body.

"Pharmaceutically nothing has helped," Terlaje said.  "He's been on 10 different kinds of medications. Either they would work for a little bit and then quit, regardless of trying to adjust doses, or they would just make it worse."

Last January, though, Terlaje and her family decided it was time to try their last resort. Doctors recommended they commit Antonio for inpatient care, used a form of high-THC cannabis oil.

"Within the first week he said 'I love you' for the first time in over two years," Terlaje said. "I mean, the bruises disappeared."

It was this sort of breakthrough the family had waited for years to see, which is why Terlaje is supporting Amendment 2, which would legalize medical marijuana in the state. But she won't be voting for it - she's a resident of Georgia.

Terlaje spent this weekend looking for a place to live in the Bay area. She is planning to move here with both of her sons if Amendment 2 passes. The move would be much easier on the family since it is only a six and a half hour drive for her husband from Fort Benning, Ga., to St. Petersburg, much closer than what a drive or flight would be to Colorado where the family was initially looking at moving.

"Florida will be the new place to go (if the amendment passes) for those who can't afford to go up to Colorado," Terlaje said.

Realtor Bobby Poth says he hasn't had any families contact him for help, but he believes the passage of the amendment will likely help the real estate market.

"In some areas of Colorado after Amendment 64 passed there, there were 10-12 percent increases in property values in some areas," Poth said. "If somebody can have access to that here to manage their health care where they can't elsewhere, that's a draw to this area."

While several southern states, including Florida, allow a form of medical marijuana low in THC and high in a compound known as CBD, Amendment 2 would allow for more forms of cannabis to a wider group of patients.

"High CBD often makes aggression or self-injury worse. It's the THC that is working. It's the only thing that's ever worked for him," Terlaje said.

For the family, moving for marijuana and becoming Florida residents will all depend on what Florida voters do on Nov. 8.

(© 2016 WTSP)


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