CHICAGO (CBS) — Twelve-year-old Ashley Surin had a busy summer. “I made a law,” she said. “Ashley’s Law,” signed by the governor earlier this month, allows her and hundreds of other children who suffer debilitating illnesses to take medical marijuana at school to relieve their pain.
For the first time this school year, Illinois students with serious illnesses and conditions will be allowed to take medical marijuana at school, if they qualify for the state’s registry.
Since the state of Illinois legalized medical marijuana in 2013, the Department of Public Health has approved 42,000 patients who qualify for a medical marijuana ID card; 305 of them under age 18. To qualify, doctors must certify a patient has one of several extremely painful illnesses or conditions.
While the state’s medical marijuana law allowed children to take CBD oil or other cannabis derivatives to ease the pain of crippling illnesses – such as cancer, seizures, or multiple sclerosis – state law prohibited them from bringing their medication to school.
Earlier this month, Gov. Brucer Rauner signed Ashley’s Law, legislation named after 12-year-old Ashley Surin of Schaumburg, who takes CBD oil to prevent seizures related to chemotherapy treatments for leukemia. The legislation allows children who have medical marijuana IDs to take their medication – in the form of a patch, a pump, or an edible – at school, under the supervision of a parent, guardian, or caretaker.
Ashley was 2 years old when she was diagnosed with leukemia. Chemotherapy treatments have left her cancer-free, but caused her to develop debilitating seizures. Her parents say patches containing cannabidiol, or CBD oil, have eliminated those seizures.
Without being able to use those patches at school, Ashley could barely get through one day of classes.
“Ashley, like any other kid in the state of Illinois, wants to be a kid,” said her father, Jim. “She wants to see her classmates. She wants to see her friends from school. She wants to see her teachers.”
“Twenty-four/seven, we would have to really shadow her, and spot her, be next to her and hold her; or she would have random drop seizures, breakthroughs, head drops, blinking episodes,” said her mother, Maureen.
Last year, Ashley’s parents filed a federal lawsuit against her school district, to force the school to allow her to bring her marijuana medication to campus.
“It wasn’t us against them. It was the team against the law,” Maureen said.
Schaumburg District 54 Superintendent Andrew DuRoss said, to school officials, medical marijuana is no different than other medications students might need, like Adderall or Ritalin.
“At its core, it’s what’s in Ashley’s best interests,” he said.
Every morning, Ashley puts a CBD patch on her foot. In the afternoon, the school nurse can help her apply CBD oil to her wrist. CBD is a marijuana derivative that does not get her high.
“She can wake up, and have a normal day, and play with friends, and go places,” Marueen said.
Since figuring out the dosages she needs to make it through the school day, her meds have kept Ashley seizure-free.
Before that, when Ashley was in a wheelchair, she would suffer one to three seizures a day at school.
“I feel like we had her bottled up for years with medicine or other drugs, and now she’s getting another chance,” Maureen said.
The Surins wanted every child to have the same rights, so they brought their fight to Springfield, and state lawmakers overwhelmingly approved Ashley’s Law.
“God gave us her health back and this is our way to pay it forward,” Maureen said.
Ashley is anxious to get back to her poms at Jane Addams Middle School, ride her bike, and inspire other kids who are just like her.
The Surin family is now in touch with other families around the country seeking similar laws in other states.