Massachusetts legalized medical cannabis in 2012, recreational use four years later, and just this year gave 45 profoundly ill or disabled minors permission to take medical cannabis, so long as they get recommendations from both a pediatrician and another doctor – and so long as they don’t take their medication while at school.
Parents of these children are outraged and reached out to the Boston Globe to tell their story. Sylvia Fogel, who’s also a psychiatrist at Mass. General Hospital’s Lurie Center for Autism, is emphatic about the benefits of cannabis for her autistic 14-year-old son, whose autoimmune dysfunction left the nonverbal teen sobbing in pain for hours from unrelenting stomach pains and headaches: “It saved him,” she said, “it finally allowed him a respite from the pain and an ability to engage and enjoy life that he hadn’t had,” stating further:
This isn’t kids smoking doobies. Every parent I’ve ever worked with who even considered [cannabis] was at the end of their rope dealing with horrific suffering that the average family cannot imagine. They’d seen multiple specialists and tried multiple medications, and even then no one was encouraging them to pursue it besides other parents in the same situation.
Massachusetts pediatrician Benjamin Caplan backs her up:
We don’t see healthy children coming in with their parents to get medical cards for fun. The kids we’re seeing are extremely challenged, whether it’s seizure disorders or extreme autism or severe emotional maladies. Cannabis is revolutionizing their lives and allowing them to function and participate normally in everyday life where they simply couldn’t before, including in schools.
Which is fine for evenings and weekends but when one parent – who didn’t want to be named because she fears retaliation by her son’s school – asked if the school nurse could give him a small dose of cannabis tincture during the school day, administrators refused:
I naively thought, ‘It’s legal and he has a card, so of course he can take it at school.’ It was very confusing and frustrating to realize he’s basically only selectively legal. It’s like telling a kid with diabetes they can have insulin, but not between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Across the country families like these are up against two federal laws: Richard Nixon’s 1970 Controlled Substances Act which places cannabis, along with heroin, in the most dangerous category of illegal drugs; and George H. W. Bush’s 1989 Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, which bans federally illicit drugs on school property – both statutes predicated on the demonstrably false assumption that cannabis has no medical value.
Thus, the Globe reports, “school leaders expressed sympathy for severely ill children, but said their hands are largely tied by the federal prohibition on marijuana and related policies banning ‘illicit’ drugs in schools.”
But given that 37 states have legalized medical cannabis precisely because of its therapeutic value, and given the uncontroverted medical evidence that the only way to relieve the “horrific suffering” of these children is to enact laws permitting access to their meds at school, surely political leaders are now willing to do whatever they can to help out.
This summer Mass. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker was given the opportunity. He was presented with legislation to study and come up with “recommendations on eliminating obstacles and expanding accommodations to possess, administer and consume medical use marijuana at public and private schools in the commonwealth.”
His response: He vetoed the measure, citing “serious concerns” about allowing medical cannabis in schools.