Cannabis can do wonders for people with certain medical conditions. It can even be beneficial to children who have treatable diseases. However, students face challenges regarding medical cannabis access in school.
Krystal Mattis is a child with autism and epilepsy. Cannabis and other therapies have helped reduce her symptoms to the point where she may be ready to attend public school full-time. But access issues are posing a challenge.
Read on to learn more about her story.
About Krystal Mattis
9-year-old Krystal Mattis of Elk River, MN was previously unable to attend school full time because physical, speech, and occupational therapies took up a good portion of her day. But after extensive treatments, her parents decided to give it a go.
Unfortunately, their hopes were shot down due to issues with medical cannabis access in school. District officials would not permit her to take her mid-day dose of cannabis medication on school grounds. Without it, she would be unable to perform well in the classroom.
“I feel it’s unfair. It’s unjust. She deserves to be at school a full day and have her medicine like any other kid,” said Krystal’s mother Sabrina Mattis.
The school suggested that the Mattis family take their daughter out of school to give her the dose and then bring her back.
But they feel it will be too disruptive to their child who is non-verbal and uses devices to help her communicate.
“To take her back, that just throws her out of her routine. The chances of her not understanding the whole situation and having discomfort more likely to not have a good rest of the day, as opposed to us just going there, administering her does and leaving and it’s barely an interruption,” said Krystal’s father Tim Mattis.
A spokesperson for ISD 728 said it “cannot comment on a student’s medical interactions with our schools.”
The Parents Take Action
The parents decided to leave Krystal on her half-day schedule for the time being. But they were desperate to find solutions that would allow their daughter to attend school full-time.
Sabrina consulted with DFL Rep. Zack Stephenson, who authored the bill legalizing recreational marijuana for Minnesota adults. The law also covers medical marijuana. She wanted his advice on medical cannabis access in schools.
Stephenson told her that the law prohibits cannabis use and possession on school grounds but allows medical cannabis that is not smokable or vaporized. Krystal’s medicine is a tincture of CBD and THC mixed into juice.
The representative also told her that lawmakers are focused on keeping the program intact to ensure children have medical cannabis access in schools. The state’s medical cannabis laws have been in effect since 2015. 40,000 patients are enrolled in Minnesota’s medical cannabis program including 450 children under 18.
“There is a strong distinction between medical and adult-use cannabis,” Stephenson said.
The Mattis family hopes the district will change their policy or that a separate law will enforce medical cannabis access in schools.
Colorado recently expanded their medical cannabis laws. They now allow willing school nurses and other personnel members to administer cannabis doses to children with a prescription.
“We hope to bring justice for children on medical cannabis, so they can be allowed to take their medicine at school, just the same as any other child in the state of Minnesota. That’s what we’re hoping,” said Sabrina.
Should Medical Cannabis Access in Schools Be Allowed?
Medical cannabis access in schools has been a hot-button issue amidst increased legalization. 40 states have legal medical weed, but only 11 allow students to take medical cannabis during school days. They include:
- District of Columbia
State laws concerning medical cannabis access in schools vary. Most states will allow medical cannabis that is not smokeable or vaporized. Some allow administration by a school nurse only. Others will allow different staff members to dose the kids.
Professional Opinions on Medical Cannabis Access in Schools
States with schools that allow medical cannabis approve FDA-regulated medications only. Epidiiolex, a form of CBD used to treat seizures, is a commonly approved drug. “The FDA has concluded that that particular drug product is safe and effective for use, and some school nurses see that medication prescribed for use in schools,” says Donna Mazyck, executive director of the National Association of School Nurses.
Many states are reluctant to okay the use of medical marijuana on school grounds, regardless of its nature. They note that cannabis can hurt developing brains. They also believe that children may share medical marijuana items and use them for recreational purposes.
However, most pediatricians acknowledge that it is useful when “current therapies are inadequate” in treating debilitating conditions.
Arguments for and Against Medical Cannabis Access in Schools
Advocates for medical cannabis access in schools argue that it can reduce missed classes that impede learning. It eliminates the need for parents to take kids out of school for dosing. It allows them to attend school full-time.
Medical cannabis also treats various conditions, such as autism, cancer, cancer treatment side effects, pain, self-aggression, and epilepsy.
They argue that access will be limited to students with medical marijuana cards. They say it’s hard for students to acquire marijuana for the wrong reasons.
People against medical cannabis access in schools argue that there is no clear evidence that medical marijuana is effective in treating conditions in teens. They also note a lack of appropriate dosing standards and unknown side effects.
They are also concerned about the short and long-term effects of using marijuana, including impaired memory, reduced problem-solving schools, decreased concentration, dizziness, and disorientation.
Mazyck notes that many of these issues can be resolved if school nurses and other staff members are up to date on “safe and informed nursing care of students who are having that medication in school.”