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‘Ashley’s Law’ Goes Into Effect In Illinois

By Roger Malespin photo/istock/jrroman

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law HB4870 into effect last week, allowing students of special circumstances to take prescribed medical cannabis on school grounds. The measure is named Ashley’s Law, for 12-year-old Ashley Surin of Schaumburg, who takes medical marijuana to treat the epilepsy she developed during chemotherapy treatments for leukemia.
Ashley’s parents sued the state of Illinois and Schaumburg School District 54 in January after she was barred from class for medicating with the drug. A federal judge ultimately ruled in favor of the family in April.

Ashley uses a patch and lotion that contains CBD oil and trace amounts of THC. The minuscule amount of THC in the product is not nearly enough to induce a high, and Ashley’s parents have said her life has improved dramatically since going on the cannabinoid regimen, including the total elimination of her seizures.

“We feel like we’re watching a miracle happen,” Maureen Surin, Ashley’s mother, said. “She thinks better, she talks better. She used to do one- and two-word sentences. Now she speaks in run-on sentences. Her life has been given back to her.”

The incident in which Ashley was barred from school was remedied rather quickly because of the public outcry and a judge ruling in favor of the family, and she was allowed to store the lotion and patch in the nurse’s office and use it there when needed. However, this was only a legal case between the school and the Surin family - a law needed to be passed to ensure other children with similar problems as Ashley could have the same right.

The bill was introduced in February by state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, and in April, the Illinois House approved the measure 99-1, then last week passed the senate by a vote of 50-2. According to Rep. Lang, the nearly unanimous approval reflects a major shift in the national consciousness on cannabis.

“The vote seems to indicate a change in the train of thought about cannabis,” Lang said. “We may have gone over the hump in explaining what this product is and isn’t.”
“With bipartisan support for ‘Ashley’s Law,’ our daughter and all Illinois schoolchildren are now able to have access to a quality education while regulating their illnesses on school grounds,” Maureen Surin said.

Ashley’s Law states that the student can take the cannabinoid product on school grounds so long as they have a prescription, the product isn’t smokable, and doesn’t “disrupt the school educational environment”. No school official is forced to apply the product should they not want to, but nor can they stop someone else from doing so. 

This is a great example of not just the changing public attitude on cannabis, but how communities can come together regardless of political identity and work for the greater good. There are a number of cases across the country such as Ashley’s that we may never hear of, but legislative action a state level like this affect every one of them. The huge support this bill received on both sides is a direct result of the voices of the people. Elected officials work for us and must listen to our demands, so stay active and make sure your voice is heard.