The Illinois General Assembly has approved a bill allowing the use medical cannabis in schools. The measure has received strong bipartisan support in both legislative houses and is now on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk for his approval.
House Bill 4870 will allow parents and guardians to give their children medical cannabis while at school. Specifically, they can administer legal medical cannabis to the students while on school grounds or while onboard buses provided that the students are legally permitted to take the drug.
In the absence of parents or guardians, caregivers may also administer the medical cannabis as long as they are registered with the Department of Public Health.
Under the measure, school boards may prohibit some uses of medical cannabis if they are disruptive to class or if they would expose the other students to the drug. Moreover, teachers or school staff will not be required to help in administering the said medication.
The federal lawsuit that started it all
State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) presented the bill to the Illinois House and dubbed it “Ashley’s Law”
after the case of 12-year-old student Ashley Surin. It can be recalled that earlier this year, Ashley’s parents filed a federal lawsuit against Schaumburg School District 54 and the State of Illinois for not allowing her to take cannabis at school.
Ashley is a leukemia patient and suffers from seizures resulting from chemotherapy. She has also undergone brain surgery following a fall brought on by a seizure. The girl wears a medical cannabis patch containing a small amount of THC on her foot, and from time to time, she uses cannabis oil drops when she needs to control her seizures.
The Surins claimed that medical cannabis has helped manage their daughter’s symptoms and improve her condition overall. As such, they requested the school district to allow Ashley’s school in Hanover Park to store her cannabis drops so that school personnel can help administer it when needed.
The school district denied the Surins’ request due to the state’s venue-related ban. While medical cannabis has been legalized in the state in 2014, the use of the drug is still banned on public school property.
“Children shouldn’t have to choose between their medication and their education.” – State Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin
This prompted the couple to sue. They contended that the state and the school district violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, and that their right to due process had been denied.
The lawsuit claimed that banning medical cannabis at school is unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment, which guarantees due process.
The Surins won the lawsuit, though, with a federal judge ruling in their favor and granting the school district exemption from the ban.
Jim Surin had pointed out that the state’s legislation should be revised such that it reflects the effectiveness of cannabis treatment and the benefits that cannabis brings to students who are suffering from certain medical conditions.
“We have to make sure that state law is up to date. Qualified patients have the right to have access to their medicine no matter where they are.” – Castro
Hoping for the governor’s signature
State Sen. Cristina Castro (D-Elgin) co-sponsored “Ashley’s Law.” She also invited the Surin family to Springfield to witness the vote.
Castro pointed out that “children should not be made to choose between their medication and their education.”
The state has to make sure that its law is up to date, she added. According to her, it is the right of qualified patients to have access to their medication wherever they are.
Ashley’s family is hoping that the governor will sign the bill into law.
Gov. Rauner has 60 days to veto or sign the bill.