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(Photo provided by the Surin family via MediReview)

legalization | 01.09.2020

This 6th grader just became the first student in Illinois allowed marijuana at school

Twenty-nine states have legal weed, but only three allow it at schools for medical reasons.

An Illinois judge just allowed one 11-year-old girl to use marijuana in school. While she is the only exception so far in the state, the decision is good news for young medical marijuana users.
Ashley Surin has had a difficult time with her health. When she was two years old, she overcame leukemia. The extensive chemo treatments lead to seizures later in life. The Surin family uses medical marijuana to keep the seizures under control with a patch Ashley wears on her foot and topical rubs for her wrists. While this regimen worked for the family, she wasn’t able to take the medicine between classes.

Even though medical marijuana is legal in Illinois, students can’t use it at school.

Illinois legalized medical marijuana in 2013, but kids at school aren’t allowed to medicate by themselves or with the help of on-site nurses.

The Surin family argued that the school district violated the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. The school district worried that their employees may face prosecution if they administered medical marijuana to students. Ultimately, the judge sided with the Surins. The Attorney General said their goal was to have Ashley back in classes as soon as possible, with no legal consequences for school staff.

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The family won the right on Jan. 12, 2018, for Ashley to receive medical marijuana at her school in Hanover Park. (Photo courtesy of Chicago Tribune)

This decision could impact the entire state.

This case shows where the Illinois Attorney General stands on the issue and could help provide a legal framework for other children in the future.

Other states also suffer from muddy rules when it comes to young students using medical marijuana on campus. Twenty-nine states have legal weed, but only New Jersey, Colorado, and Maine require schools let people with prescriptions medicate. Other states ban it outright or allow each individual school decide, like Washington. Since the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act is a federal statute, those rules may change if challenged.

While Ashley can go back to school this week, lawmakers still have work to do.

This decision may set a precedent, but the exact rules in Illinois are still unclear. This exemption from the status quo is only good for one student in one school district. While the judge agreed with the Surin family, she cited restrictions like smoking in class. But, then again, the judge pointed out: “No one’s saying she wants to fire up a bong in math class.”

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