Ground Breaking Marijuana Case Lets Little Girl Go Back To School In Illinois
Medical marijuana is helping one little girl in Illinois go back to school. Eleven-year-old Ashley Surin was banned from attending classes at her school in Schaumburg, Illinois because she wears a medical marijuana patch and uses cannabis oil and lotion to manage seizures.
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Last week, a federal judge ruled that Ashley was allowed to bring her prescription medication with her, changing her life forever.
Using medical marijuana has done wonders for Ashley, according to her family. “The two together are a golden cure for her,” her mother, Maureen Surin, said through tears after an emergency hearing earlier this month. “she can think better, walk better, talk better. Her brain used to be like in a cloud. Now she can think better and is more alert and she can interact.”
When Ashley was just a toddler, she was diagnosed with childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Doctors gave her several rounds of chemotherapy and spinal injections to fight the cancer. Whilst the treatment did send her cancer into remission, one of the spinal injections triggered seizures. Prescription medication for her seizures helped, but with several serious side effects including memory loss, limited energy, and extreme mood swings.
Doctors wanted to prescribe another drug to Ashley last August, but her parents refused. Her father, Jim Surin said, “We drew a line in the sand.” Instead, the Surins found another doctor who suggested a change in diet and cannabis was an alternative worth trying. Their medical marijuana license was granted in December.
Ashley’s parents saw improvements almost immediately. However, the law in Illinois doesn’t allow even medical prescriptions of marijuana in schools.
While sympathetic, the district said it felt it had to follow the law the way it was written. That meant Ashley's parents would have had to keep her out of class or take the school to court. In the meantime, she had to stay out of school, missing a couple of weeks of class.
"We, unfortunately, in some cases, have to abide by state and federal law that contradicts what the school's job is for students and what our obligations are to serve medically fragile and ill students," said Darcy Kriha, the district's attorney. The morning before the hearing, Kriha said she got a call from the district superintendent and the school board president who told her the mission was to do whatever she could to make sure Ashley could come back to school. Kriha said she applauded the Surins "courage" for bringing the lawsuit against the district.
The Illinois attorney general agreed not to prosecute and said there should be no negative legal ramifications for staff who help Ashley with the medicine. The federal judge issued an emergency order to allow Ashley to go back to school.
And on Tuesday last week, Ashley did return to school. Her father said it felt a little "surreal." "There were about a dozen people there to welcome her, everyone from her aids and teachers to the principal and assistant superintendent. They were amazing and super supportive," Surin said.
The ruling and the warm reception have left the Surin family even more determined to create change. "I hope that we can help the state change the law to not only let our daughter get the medicine she needs, but that other students will be helped as well," Jim Surin said.