Illinois Lawmakers Pass HB4870 To Allow Children Medical Cannabis at School

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The children who use medical cannabis in the United States typically have very serious medical conditions. Cancer, epilepsy and degenerative conditions like muscular dystrophy can all respond positively to cannabis treatment. Patients can reduce their symptoms, improve daily function and even stave off the worsening of their condition with the regular medical use of cannabinoids.

There was a time no so long ago when children with any of these or other serious medical conditions would end up spending months at home or in the hospital, isolated from their peers. However, medical cannabis often provides those with severe conditions a new lease on life. Reduced symptoms can allow even those with severe conditions, like intractable epilepsy, to return to school without serious concern for their well-being.

Many states have analyzed the evidence and potential benefits of medical cannabis for severely ill children, leading them to include children in their medical cannabis laws and programs. Many times, these programs require redundant checks, like having a second doctor certify the diagnosis of the child and verifying that it could respond to cannabis treatments. Few people question that the children who receive a medical cannabis recommendation have a serious need for their medicine.

However, thanks in part to federal laws turning schools into “drug-free zones” and state laws that ban even medical cannabis on school property, many states prohibit medical cannabis patients from possessing or using cannabis on school grounds. For those who depend on regular doses to reduce seizures, muscle spasticity or other symptoms, or who need cannabis to keep a tumor from growing, it may be necessary to receive cannabis medicine during the school day. Clearly, this creates a serious issue for children with the most pressing need for safe access.

Thankfully, Illinois lawmakers were inspired by Ashley Surin. This 11-year-old girl controls her seizures with a cannabinoid-infused patch. Her seizures started as a response to cancer treatment when she was younger. Once she was well enough to return to school, however, she faced another major challenge. The school wouldn’t allow her to use her medicine on school property, despite the clear and pressing medical need.

Her parents had to take the schools to court, because their daughter was not allowed to use the medicine saving her life while at school for eight hours during the day. A judge ruled back in January of this year that the school should accommodate her needs.

That ruling has inspired state lawmakers to change the law. Illinois is leading to way to address this issue, with lawmakers voting on May 17th, 2018, to approve a bill to protect those children. HB 4870 has been the focus of much debate, but thankfully, both houses of the Illinois Legislature decided to do the right thing. The law will allow a parent who serves as a state-registered caregiver for their child to administer medical cannabis on school property or school buses to children who have a state identification card for the medical cannabis program. Now the bill awaits the signature of the Governor, Bruce Rauner.

Colorado lawmakers are currently considering a similar bill, although their bill would authorize school nurses to administer cannabis medications to qualifying student patients. The proposed Colorado law focuses on storage and safe transportation by the child’s primary caregiver.

Whatever the state, children who depend on cannabis should not have to choose between attending school with their peers and accessing the medication that saves or drastically improves their lives. Hopefully, children with serious medical conditions and their parents won’t have to keep making that kind of decision for much longer.

 

For previous Ladybud coverage of pediatric medical cannabis, click here.

 

Photo Credit: Patrick Emerson under CC BY-ND 2.0