Colorado Springs teenage medical marijuana patient thankful for ‘small victory’

A teenage medical marijuana patient in Colorado Springs says he considers it a “small victory” that he is now able to go back to school on the days he has to come home to take a medical marijuana THC pill or lozenge.

The district at one point had told the family that the boy could not come back to class after taking his medicine. The district has since “clarified” its position and apologized to the family for the “miscommunication”.

The boy and his father are still adamant, however, that state law needs to be changed so that he can bring his lozenges to school.

The boy suffers from an extremely rare neurological disorder that causes him to suffer intense seizures. He takes other drugs that work to reduce the frequency of the seizures and only uses the THC to reduce the length and intensity of a seizure once it begins.

“If I can suck on a lozenge as soon as I feel an attack beginning to come on, it is way better than if I have to walk home and then take the medicine after the attack has been going on awhile,” he said.

He said that if he can get a lozenge into his mouth soon enough, he often has the attack under control before he has even finished the first lozenge. “I just spit it out when that happens,” he said.

That doesn’t happen much when he has to walk home in order to get a lozenge, he said. The effect of state law banning medical marijuana from school grounds–and the district’s unwavering commitment to following the letter of the law–in effect means he has to take higher doses of THC than would otherwise be needed.

Bill Smith, as we named the boy when we first spoke with him, said school is going well and that he is making new friends since changing high school so that he would be able to walk home to get his medicine as needed.

“All the kids know it’s me now. The treat me pretty good. Nobody asks me for pills or anything like that. All they ask is why we don’t sue the school district, but I tell them that would just hurt everybody.

“I don’t want to cause trouble for the school. I just want people with disabilities to be able to go to school and get their medicine when they need it. I need to be able to take my medicine as soon as I feel an attack starting to come on and I can’t do that the way the law is now. I just want to be able to control my seizures the best way I can, and I can’t do that if I have to walk home to get my meds. I don’t medicate just to medicate.”

He and his father are very concerned about a bill they fear could ban edible marijuana in Colorado. That bill was pulled from consideration last week so that revisions could be made to it that may keep some edible marijuana legal in Colorado as long as the products is made in Colorado.

“I can’t smoke it. I can’t inhale very good when I’m having an attack and I just don’t want marijuana around my family.” He has a little sister that he doesn’t want exposed to marijuana and his parents have a history of substance abuse, partly explaining the fact that his grandmother is his legal guardian.

“I don’t want it in the house. I don’t want my sister finding it, and I don’t want my parents to have to be around it either.”

Smith’s father, Shan Moore, told The Colorado Independent that the district’s attorney called him to apologize for the “miscommunication” that occurred Feb. 4, when a district nurse informed the family that Smith could not come back to school on days he had taken his medicine.

Moore said it was good that the district backed off from that stance, but that the fundamental problem still exists, which is that the boy had to change schools so that he would be able to walk home to get medicine that the family believes he ought to be able to keep at school just as most kids are able to keep prescribed medicine at school, under the supervision of a nurse.

Several groups have talked about holding a protest at the school or at district headquarters, but they are holding off for now because the family doesn’t want to antagonize the district and also because they believe it is state law that needs to be changed so that kids like Smith can keep THC pills or lozenges at school.

Moore said some of the boy’s supporters are trying to organize a lunch for district officials to meet with doctors and others who could explain to district officials why it is important for Smith to be able to keep his medicine at school.

He said there may be a protest at the Capitol at some point to draw attention to the state law that bans all medical marijuana from school facilities. Moore said even allowing school districts to make a decision to allow the medicine on a case by case basis would probably be fine.

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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