Eleven-year-old Ashley Surin just wants to go to school with her classmates. After suffering seizures due to treatment for leukemia, her parents said, only medical marijuana helped her – but by state law, the drug wasn’t allowed at school.
The parents filed suit to let their daughter receive the drug at school, and on Friday, they suddenly got their wish – officials from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office and Schaumburg School District 54 agreed to let the girl receive her medication while they try to iron out the legalities.
“I’m in pinch-me mode,” the girl’s mother, Maureen Surin, said. “I’m excited. This is not just going to help her, I hope it’s going to help other kids down the road.”
The agreement applies only to Ashley, but eventually could have ramifications for students across Illinois, attorneys said. Ultimately, those involved said, the issue probably will have to be addressed by changing state law to allow medical marijuana at schools for children with serious illness.
“We’re just glad that the parties involved … worked in concert to help a child,” the girl’s attorney, Steven Glink, said.
Ashley, a 6th-grader at Hanover Highlands Elementary School in Hanover Park, was diagnosed with leukemia at age 2, and has been in remission since 2011, but as a result of brain damage from the prescription chemotherapy drug methotrexate, she has suffered daily debilitating seizures, her father, Jim Surin, said.
One of the seizures caused her to fall and hit her head, which led to brain surgery last summer, he said. After all their daughter has been through, her father described her as “the bravest girl on Earth,” and her mother called her a “rock star.”
Ashley began taking medical marijuana the first week of December, wearing a patch on her foot and rubbing an oil extract on her wrists, and has only suffered one seizure since then, he said. But the parents want both forms of the drug available at school to prevent another seizure.
Medical marijuana, combined with a low-carb ketogenic diet for the past month or so, has been “like a golden cure” for their daughter, Maureen Surin said.
“She can think better, walk better, talk better,” she said. “Her brain used to be like in a cloud. Now she can think clearer, she’s more alert, she can interact, and she seems like she can now go back to school and learn and not be in a cloud (as) on all those previous medicines.”
At a hearing in federal court in Chicago to consider the issue, Illinois Assistant Attorney General Thomas Ioppolo said that his office was willing to let school employees dispense the medication without prosecution.
But U.S. Judge John Robert Blakey pointed out that officials would have to address the state law prohibition on possession or use of marijuana at school. For the judge to rule on the issue, he said, he would also need to find some legal basis to do so.
The court case was continued until Friday, Jan. 19, for the attorney general’s office to return with its legal assessment. But a court ruling may be unnecessary, Glink said, if school and state officials and lawmakers can resolve the matter on their own.
School district attorney Darcy Kriha said the case could benefit many children beyond Ashley, if school employees are protected from prosecution or license penalties for participating.
School access is not the only issue, Maureen Surin said. Ashley wants to go to Disney World in Florida, but also can’t get her medicine when she crosses state lines, Surin added.
Ashley takes drops that are a mix primarily of CBD, an extract of marijuana shown to reduce seizures, and a small amount of THC, the psycho-active component of marijuana, too little to get her daughter high, Surin said.
“This is not a drug, it’s a medicine,” she said. “The law needs to catch up with reality.”
Participants believed this to be the first court case addressing the use of medical marijuana in schools. But marijuana opponents were skeptical of the idea of giving kids marijuana as medicine, at school or anywhere.
Sue Rusche, co-founder and president of National Families in Action, said only marijuana extracts approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration should be used.
“The legalization folks are willing to exploit desperately ill people to get medical marijuana and full legalization,” she said.
Federal law prohibits possession of marijuana in general, but the judge noted that recent federal law also prohibits prosecutors from spending funds to go after state medical marijuana programs – though that prohibition is due to expire later this month unless Congress extends it.
The judge suggested that any deal to let students use medical marijuana would not include smoking in class, saying, “No one’s saying she wants to fire up a bong in math class.”
Original Article at http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/ct-met-suburban-student-medical-marijuana-hearing-20180112-story.html