Friday, November 15, 2019
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Court steps into an IL medical marijuana case

Only a few states in the country—Colorado, Maine, and New Jersey—allow students to bring prescription marijuana to school, and Illinois isn’t one of them.


Vials of CBD oil, made from marijuana plants (iStock)

A school nurse can actually be arrested if she helps a student apply a medical marijuana patch on his foot or places a drop of CBD oil on a student’s tongue during a severe muscle spasm. Even if they have a prescription for it, students can’t enter a classroom with medical marijuana.

The issue doesn’t come up very often, but it did for one 11-year-old girl from Schaumburg, who was diagnosed with childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia when she was very young. One of the treatments for that disease, which fortunately put her cancer into remission, triggered seizures that have bothered her ever since.

She was taking several medicines, each with a host of side effects that left her feeling down. Finally, her family decided to give a change in diet and cannabis a try, under the care of her doctor. They got their medical marijuana license in December, CNN reports.

Because bringing marijuana, medical or otherwise, into a school in Illinois is against the law, Ashley Surin had to sue Schaumburg School District 54. Now, even the respondents in this lawsuit—the school district, the superintendent—were strongly interested in doing everything they could to help Ashley, but breaking the law simply wasn’t really an option without the approval of a court of competent jurisdiction.

So on January 12, a federal judge in Chicago stepped in and issued an emergency order to allow Ashley to return to school—with her medicine. The Illinois attorney general agreed not to prosecute anyone in connection with her bringing marijuana to school and also assured school staff members there’d be no negative legal consequences if they help Ashley with the medicine.

Can medical marijuana get you high? Marijuana, or cannabis, contains hundreds of different compounds. Some of them are psychoactive and some aren’t. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the main driving force behind getting stoned, and most medical marijuana laws in the country specify the use of low-THC marijuana. But different strains of the plant have different levels, and that’s not the main medically active ingredient anyway; that would be CBD, an antioxidant, which doctors believe protects the brain. It has been approved for use in the treatment of various conditions, including muscle spasms, cancer, epilepsy, and terminal illnesses. CBD, or cannabidiol, doesn’t get you high and abuse is possible with any drug, but patients who take controlled doses under a doctor’s care aren’t using the drug in a recreational manner.

In all, 29 states have laws that allow medical marijuana use, but only the three listed above allow it universally in schools. In Washington state, state law makes it a local decision whether to allow medical marijuana in the schools. The order in this case applies to this case only, and more action is needed to ensure that children who have a condition for which medical marijuana has been prescribed can still attend school safely.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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