What do you do when your sick child is taking cannabis treatment and she can’t take it to school? Does she stop going to school altogether just so she can continue with the treatment that works for her?
This question is answered for the parents of an 11-year-old girl, who is a leukemia patient and who suffers from seizures as a result of chemotherapy, when a federal judge in Chicago ruled that the girl can now use medical cannabis at her suburban elementary school.
The girl’s parents, Jim and Maureen Surin, sued the Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54, as well as the state of Illinois, for not allowing their daughter, Ashley, to take cannabis at school. According to the lawsuit, the girl wears a medical patch that contains a small amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on her foot. From time to time, the girl uses cannabis oil drops on her wrists or on her tongue when the patch is not enough to prevent her seizures.
The Surins said that their daughter’s condition has improved dramatically ever since she started her medical cannabis treatments. They are hoping that she continues to improve as she is weaned off her other medications and gets back to school.
“Legislation should be revised to reflect the cannabis medications’ effectiveness and how cannabis benefits students suffering from certain medical conditions.” – Jim Surin
The Surins had requested the district to let the school store the cannabis drops so that school personnel can help administer it when the need arises. However, the district denied their request. This prompted them to sue the school district and the state, contending that the defendants violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, as well as denied their right to due process.
Steven Glink, the Surin family’s lawyer, pointed out that the girl would risk seizures and even risk death if she continues to attend school without her medical cannabis.
Terri McHugh, spokeswoman for District 54, had noted that they serve students with complex health needs and they work with families to care for and support their students. She explained that in this instance, however, they cannot accommodate the Surins’ request because the state’s Medical Cannabis Pilot Program does not permit the use or possession of cannabis on school grounds.
While Illinois has legalized medical cannabis since 2014, it still bans the substance on public school property.
The lawsuit claimed that banning the medicine at school is unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment, which guarantees due process. It also asserted that there is no rational basis for making a distinction between school property and the locations where medical cannabis is allowed.
Judge rules in patient’s favor
In a more recent development, U.S. District Judge John Blakey ruled in favor of the Surins. He granted the school district an exemption from the state’s venue-related ban. The ruling means that Ashley is allowed to take medical cannabis at school for her seizures and that the school district can administer medical cannabis to her when necessary.
The attorney for the school district, Darcy Kriha, said that Judge Blakey’s decision can also help other students by setting a precedent. According to him, the ramifications of the decision will be felt throughout the state.
Jim Surin, meanwhile, stressed out that the legislation should be revised to reflect the cannabis medications’ effectiveness and how cannabis benefits students suffering from certain medical conditions.
School district officials said that they will administer cannabis to Ashley until they get further clarification or directive from the attorney general. An assistant AG told Judge Blakey that they would permit the school to administer medical cannabis until his office can determine how the state law will be addressed.