A judge in Illinois has ruled that it is legal for an 11-year-old girl suffering from debilitating seizures to use medical marijuana while she is at school. This decision could herald a change in state law, which currently prohibits anyone from using or administering cannabis on school property. The ruling was made in the case of 6th-grade student Ashley Surin, whose parents filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Illinois and Schaumberg School District 54, arguing that preventing her from using medical cannabis at school is a violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
At a hearing on the court case, school district officials testified that they were afraid that their employees could face prosecution if they administered cannabis on school grounds. Illinois Assistant Attorney General Thomas Ioppolo said that his office would not prosecute school employees who assisted students with legal medical cannabis, the Chicago Tribune reports. Judge John Robert Blakey ruled in favor of allowing Surin to use her medicine while at school, making her the only student in the state who is currently legally able to do so.
Parents of school children who are using medical marijuana have faced similar problems throughout the country, as federal marijuana prohibition laws conflict with both federal and state laws that guarantee equal rights for the disabled. IDEA mandates that all schools in the country accommodate children with disabilities, requiring school officials to assist disabled students with their medications. Yet federal law also prohibits all illegal drugs, including cannabis, from being used on or within 1,000 feet of school grounds, preventing school officials from accommodating students whose illnesses have been successfully treated with cannabis.
Although 29 states have now legalized medical cannabis in some form, only Colorado, Maine, and New Jersey have passed laws allowing students to use medical marijuana in schools. California state legislators are currently mulling a similar law to protect students in their state, and Judge Blakey's decision could provide a precedent in allowing similar laws to be passed in Illinois. States that have passed these laws are currently protected from federal prosecution by the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which defunds any attempts by the Justice Department to interfere with state-legal medical marijuana, but these protections may disappear this month if legislators are unable to extend them.