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Colorado Teen Marijuana Case Attracts More TV Coverage; District Says Hands Are Tied

Rich 2011-02-12 0 comments

By Scot Kersgaard | Published in The Colorado Independent

Colorado Springs

A Colorado Springs school district spokesperson told the Colorado Independent this morning that the  district’s hands are tied by state law in terms of how it handles the case of a student with a prescription for  medical marijuana.

“This is a legal situation with the state, not with the school district,” spokesperson Jennifer Sprague said.  “State law says no one can possess or ingest medical marijuana on school grounds. That is not a district rule;  that is state law.”

She said the boy is free to return to school after going home to take his medication. She said  state law says no one may be on school grounds if they are under the influence of marijuana, but that if the boy is not disruptive and does not show any other signs of being under the influence of marijuana, he is welcome to come back to school on the days he has taken THC lozenges or pills.

The boy’s father, Shan Moore, though, reiterated today that the district nurse called the boy’s grandmother (his legal guardian) last friday and told her the boy could not come back to school on any day that he has taken his medication. He said that even though the district is telling the media that the boy can return to school on those days, no one from the district has ever communicated that directly to the family.

Sprague said she could not comment on any communication the district has had or not had with the family.

“The district has been very unprofessional in their dealings with us,” Moore said. “They have never called us back to change or clarify what they told us Friday. Throughout this whole ordeal we have been very careful to follow the letter of what the district tells us to do. Right now, we are operating under the instruction that he is not to go to school on the days he has taken his medicine.

Moore told The Independent this afternoon that Barker’s office called him today and told him they were looking into the situation. Barker told us the same thing a few days ago, but did not immediately returns calls today.

Moore said that even if the Harrison School District 2 does allow his son to return to school on days he is medicated, that won’t end his protestations that the district ought to do more.

He says his son should be allowed to keep his medicine at school, under lock and key and in the custody of the school nurse, just as other students on different medications can do. “Regardless of how this immediate situation is resolved, we still want to fight the law that says he cannot have his medications at school.”

He emphasizes that his son’s prescription was suggested to them by doctors at both Childrens Medical Center and National Jewish, and that it is those doctors who prescribed the drug. “This is not from some medical marijuana doctor,” he said.

Because of not being allowed to bring his medications to school, the boy actually transferred earlier this year to a new high school, one closer to home so that he can walk home to get his medication when needed. Mind you, his walk home is made more difficult by the fact he only takes marijuana after a seizure starts, so he has to walk home while in the throes of a seizure. “He should be allowed to have his meds at school,” Moore said.

His son, whom we dubbed Bill Smith in our first story, was diagnosed with an extremely rare neurological disease about a year ago. He missed about a year of school, spending much of that time in the hospital before his doctors decided to try him on medical marijuana.

“There are entire weeks of his life he can’t remember because he was on so many narcotics,” Moore said.

Smith’s condition causes spasms, which can last for 24 hours or even longer. When he sucks a THC lozenge or takes a pill, it has the effect of relaxing his body such that the convulsions weaken and are over sooner.

Moore says that on the days when his son has such a bad attack that higher doses of the drug are needed, he won’t go to school. “He knows when he’s impaired, and we know when he’s impaired. The last thing any of us want is for him to go to school and be disruptive, and we won’t let that happen.”

On the lower doses of the drug needed to end the average attack, Moore and his son tell us the drug does not affect his mental state. “He’s not taking the marijuana to get high, believe me,” Moore said.

“If this would have happened to me when I was his age, I would have just dropped out and gotten my GED. He doesn’t want to do that. He wants to go to school, that means so much to him. He wants to graduate and make something of himself, but he feels like he is being left behind,” the father said.

“He’s fighting to stay in school and he feels like the district is telling him he’s not worth it. He’s insulted by how the district has handled this, and their policies have put him in harm’s way.”

Moore said one of the attorneys the family has consulted advised them to switch districts. “We’ve already switched schools and we don’t want to do that again if we don’t have to.”

Moore said the next step is probably to file a complaint related to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

He said he and his family “will fight this to the end.” He said his son is stoked by the possibility that his story could lead to changes in how patients are treated in the future.