Parents Fight for Daughter’s Right to Take Medical Marijuana at School

June 2, 2015 | Education, Health Care
Lora and Roger Barbour want their daughter to be able to take cannabis oil at school for epilepsy.

By Michael Hill

Lora and Roger Barbour say nothing controls their autistic 16-year-old daughter’s epilepsy like medical marijuana. Not the surgery to remove part of Genny’s right frontal lobe when she was 2 or a handful of prescribed drugs she no longer takes.

“They have not seen what Genny went through with five medicine changes last year,” Lora said.

“New pharmaceuticals came out last year,” Roger said.

“She couldn’t even walk,” said Lora.

“She was a zombie,” Roger said.

The Barbours say desperation last September led them to try cannabis oil to control Genny’s seizures — three doses a day. But they say this year it became obvious the nonverbal Genny needed another dose at lunchtime at school.

“She can’t speak. She was getting violent and aggressive. When they would lock her in that chair she would become so angry, she would bite herself and she would come home with bruises. She bit something, either herself, a bone or the chair so hard that she chipped her front tooth,” Roger said.

Despite that, the school said it would not administer the fourth dose for fear of violating federal law which still considers marijuana a dangerous substance on the scale of LSD. Federal law conflicts with New Jersey’s Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (CUMMA).

“And then you get the New Jersey attorney general guidelines for police to enforce CUMMA. It says that on school grounds you can use medical marijuana as long as it’s not smoked,” Roger said.

The Barbours say they considered sneaking the oil into Genny’s lunchtime apple sauce but decided instead to sue the school and the Maple Shade district, arguing the district is breaking New Jersey’s compassionate use law and violating Genny’s equal protection rights.

But, in January, a judge ruled against them saying — among other things — Genny has no caretaker at school to give her cannabis oil. The Barbours are appealing.

There are some in the medical profession who side with the school on whether to give medical marijuana to youngsters. They say the issue needs much more thorough research to determine the detriment or benefits of giving medical marijuana to youngsters. The Barbours say they know the answer already.

“She missed 40 percent of her school year on the pharmaceuticals. She’s down to zero absences this year,” Roger said.

The Barbours say on four daily doses of medical marijuana, Genny has fewer seizures, she’s calm and more attentive and able to enjoy life.

“It’s the best medicine she’s ever been on. I can’t believe it. It makes no sense to me but that’s how it is,” Roger said.

“We had nowhere else to go. You’re at the end of the line,” Lora said.

The case is considered a landmark lawsuit — one that will likely wind up in federal court and could impact every state that allows medical marijuana.