Decided - The FindLaw Noteworthy Decisions and Settlements Blog

Girl Can Use Cannabis Medicine at School, California Court Rules

Imagine watching your child have a tonic-clonic seizure for an hour, with no way to stop it, until an ambulance arrives and administers emergency medication. If you're lucky enough not to be familiar with a tonic-clonic seizure, it's when you slump over, potentially falling on the ground and injuring yourself, eyes rolled back, in the fetal position, hands clocked inward, foaming at the mouth, convulsing violently, biting your tongue until it bleeds, and urinating on yourself. It is nothing short of horrific, for both the child and the parent.

Most tonic-clonic seizures last a minute or so, but in Brooke Adams' case, who has Dravet's Syndrome, they would go on for an hour, causing irreparable damage to her brain and entire nervous system. None of the standard medications were curbing these seizures. It was, as they say, uncontrollable. Brooke would have 20 seizures per month, until the Adams discovered that CBD oil significantly curbed the number of seizures, and THC oil would stop any prolonged seizures within three minutes. This was nothing short of a life-changing miracle for the Adams family.

But there was a catch: how could she take the cannabis medicine to school?

Medicinal Marijuana on School Grounds -- States Are in the Weeds

Brooke, age five, could legally use CDB and THC oil in California to combat her seizures, but couldn't attend local public school for two reasons.

First, it is illegal to consume marijuana, even medicinal marijuana, within 1,000 feet of a school. Brooke takes her CBD oil about three times a day, and therefore one dose would be at school. Though her mother or other legal guardian could come and take her out of school for a 1,000 foot field trip every day, this isn't practical with the emergency THC oil, which needs to be administered immediately, and best done by a school nurse.

Second, public schools that receive federal funding must pledge that they are a drug and alcohol free zone. Allowing CBD and THC oils on a public school campus could jeopardize that income. But Brooke's family saw how much she thrived in the private pre-school, and felt she had a constitutional right to attend public school kindergarten.

So the Adams family sued the Rincon Valley Union Elementary School District in Santa Rosa, California, and won.

Is One Hour a Day of Homeschool Equal to a Day in Public School?

At issue in the lawsuit was whether the one hour per day of instruction the school district was offering Brooke at home constituted an offer of free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. Upon hearing all of the testimony from doctors, school administrators, and educational specialists, the administrative judge hearing the case said no, an hour at home wasn't the least restrictive environment, and allowed Brooke to bring her CBD and THC oils with her to school, to be administered by the school nurse.

It's a huge win for Brooke, but only Brooke. The administrative judge made it clear that this ruling was not to extend to other plaintiffs, though it is likely to be used as persuasive evidence in similar cases throughout the country.

States Try to Maneuver Hazy Issues

California Senate Bill 1127 sits on Governor Brown's desk, awaiting final signature. This bill would allow parents and guardians to administer medicinal marijuana on school grounds. California wouldn't be setting precedent. Colorado, Maine, New Jersey and Washington state already allow some students to use medical marijuana at school. Though it would help in many cases where cannabis oil is given as medicine, it wouldn't help people, like Brooke, that also need it to be administered by staff on an emergency basis. But Senate Bill 1127 is a step in Brooke's direction, and as medicinal cannabis becomes more accepted by the American public, medical communities, and the federal government, states are going to have to address it.

Epilepsy currently affects 3.4 million people in America, and about one in 26 Americans will develop epilepsy at some point in their lives. Epilepsy is covered under the American Disability Act, giving epileptics protective rights both at work and at school. If you or someone you love is being discriminated against for epilepsy, or any medical issue, contact a local discrimination lawyer, who can help you understand your rights, and file any necessary legal paperwork to end any injustice.

Related Resources: