A young Illinois girl and her family have won a lawsuit against the Schaumburg School District, which had declined to allow her to use cannabis oils or lotions on campus to manage debilitating seizures. Ashley Surin, 11, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2008. While chemotherapy and spinal injections defeated the cancer, the medication she took to combat her seizures made her prone to mood swings, low energy, and memory loss — until she started using medical marijuana.
Though Surin acquired a medical marijuana card in December and is legally allowed to use the substance, school administrators felt her prescription was a violation of their zero-tolerance drug policy — at least in part because of the potential for accidental ingestion. Beyond that, nurses who are responsible for the care of all the school’s students could lose their licenses by interacting with the substance in order to treat Surin at school. Surin took the school to court in order to go back to class and protect school workers.
A federal judge ruled that there should be no legal ramifications for staff helping Surin with her medication and that the 11-year-old could return to school immediately. It was a groundbreaking ruling because, pn top of seizure prevention, medical marijuana is used by many parents to manage the harmful effects of chemotherapy. In all cases, a medical marijuana card is needed.
As is the case with all kinds of medications the risk of accidental ingestion by a child is ever present. According to a study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, between 2005 and 2011 there were close to 1,000 reported cases of “unintentional marijuana exposure.” Of those cases, 396 were in decriminalized states. Most exposures resulted in a loss of balance and dizziness, with almost none of them requiring any type of hospitalization.
Despite the potential risks of having marijuana in a house with children, a separate study in Colorado, where cannabis has been totally legalized, found that more than half of the reported exposures were as a result of poor supervision. No one died. No one was seriously injured.
Though debates like the one surrounding Surin are bound to continue as access to medicinal marijuana becomes more common, it’s worth noting that there are more than a handful of normal objects that can be found in every school that have a much higher likelihood of harming children.For example, in the US, on average 3,318 children get hurt by fences at school every year, an average of 3,458 kids hurt by knives and—here is the ultimate irony— 5,786 children were hurt by pens and pencils. Beyond these injury stats being limited to schools, they dwarf, in some cases by almost six times, the number of hospitalizations from accidental cannabis ingestion over a six-year period.