Teen’s medical marijuana fight escalates as school says he cannot come back to class after going home for medicine

The saga of a Colorado Springs teenager struggling with a rare neurological condition best controlled with medical marijuana lozenges became a little more surreal when Harrison School District 2 informed the student’s father that the child cannot return to school on any day that he consumes medical marijuana.

“They say if he takes his medicine he cannot come back to school,” the teenager’s father told The Colorado Independent. The boy attends Sierra High School.

The child missed most of the last school year when he was diagnosed with diaphragmatic and axial myoclonus, which causes seizures that can last for 24 hours or more. He spent extensive periods of time hospitalized and used morphine and other narcotics to control the seizures until doctors discovered that THC works better than any other medication.

He was able to return to school in January but as the district would not allow him to possess or consume his prescribed medicine on campus, he transferred to a school closer to home so that he could walk home as needed to take his medicine.

After the district’s latest salvo was delivered, the teen’s father said he spoke with both the district superintendent and the district attorney and that neither were receptive to his arguments that his son needs the medicine to function, does not get high and does not smell like marijuana.

The district has refused to comment to us, other than for a spokesperson to say that the district intends to follow the letter of the law, which is that no student may possess or consume medical marijuana on school grounds.

The district’s attorney, Kelly Dude, did not return a call for comment.

The father has now taken the step of writing to the legislators who represent his district, Democratic Senator John Morse and Republican Representative Mark Barker.

We called both, seeking comment. Barker told us he would look into the matter, and then sent us this email: “I will have the legislative liaison staff research the issue and once we have the information, perhaps we can provide a solution.”

Senator Greg Brophy, R-Wray, reached by email, said this: “Tragic. Zero tolerance policies are for people with zero intelligence.”

Brophy has introduced an unrelated bill that would make it easier for some students to take needed medicine while at school.

In the letter, signed by the mother, the father and the grandmother (who has legal custody of the child), they recount the damage they believed was being done to the child by narcotics which had been used to control his condition before they tried THC.

They ask Morse and Barker for their help in changing the law so that exceptions can be made on a case by case basis. They make the point that the teenager does not get high on the drug.

“This is a child that wants his education, and has gone through enough with the endless tests, trials, and school changes.

“We are doing everything we possibly can to stay within the letter of the law,” they write.

The father has released many pages of medical records to The Colorado Independent. The boy’s doctor has not yet returned our phone calls, so we are not releasing her name, but below we quote from a letter she prepared for the school district.


Date: January 18, 2011 To: Whom it may concern

Regarding: redacted name

DOB: redacted date/1994

Diagnosis: Diaphragmatic and Axial myoclonus

Treatment: Sinemet 25/100 mg tablets, 2 tablets by mouth three times per day Zoloft 50mg at bedtime THC 10-50mg as needed for episode of breakthrough myoclonus

Rationale: Failure to respond to a host of other medications including Keppra, clonazepam, valium, morphine, benadryl, Xanax, inhaled lidocaine, Dilantin, Tegretol, Depakote, Flexeril, Artane, IVlg and Solumedrol. Previously, (redacted name) was taking benzodiazepines while at school for episodes of breakthrough myoclonus which was sedating and ineffective to control the symptoms. We now have (redacted name) on a medication regimen which actually helps reduce the frequency and duration of his spells, and have found a medication which reliably aborts the attacks (THC) when they occur.

He has no significant side effects to the THC and is functional on this medication. I strongly recommend that (redacted name) return to school on his current medication regimen and be allowed to take the THC which has been prescribed by a physician to treat his medical condition.

Please call me with any concerns or questions.

In the plan above, the father explained that the zoloft and sinemet are taken on a regular schedule to reduce the frequency of the attacks and the THC is taken only when an attack occurs in order to reduce the severity and length of the individual attack. For best effect, the THC needs to be taken immediately when an attack occurs, which is not possible when the boy has to walk home to get his medicine.

As a side note, the father told us today that his son sprained an ankle over the weekend and was prescribed vicodin for the pain.

“I called the school to see if he could come to school after taking vicodin and they said that was no problem even though the vicodin affects his mental state way more than the THC.

“It’s not right,” the father said.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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