The Larc School, a private school for children with disabilities located in Bellmawr, New Jersey, made headlines earlier this month when Roger and Lora Barbour, parents of 16-year-old Genny Barbour, filed a lawsuit against the school for barring their daughter from taking her prescribed cannabis oil on school grounds. Genny, who suffers from epilepsy and autism, began taking the oil in August 2014 to help reduce the number of seizures she experiences. According to her medical records, this treatment has been successful.
The School’s Offer and Subsequent Lawsuit
To avoid violating federal law by having the cannabis oil brought onto campus, The Larc School offered that Lora Barbour, Genny’s designated caregiver and under New Jersey’s medical marijuana law, the only person who may administer her medicine, take her daughter off campus for her midday dose. This wasn’t viable for the family, who wanted the school to adjust its policy to allow her to take the medicine with her lunch. The Larc School, concerned about the possibility of violating federal law if it allowed Lora to do this, refused.
Initially, the court ruled in favor of the school. The family has since appealed and is currently in court attempting to have the ban overturned.
New Jersey’s Medical Marijuana Program and Minors
Minor patients suffering from the list of approved conditions may participate in New Jersey’s medical marijuana program under the supervision of a parent or legal guardian who can act as the child’s designated caregiver.
New Jersey’s medical marijuana law says nothing about minors’ use of the substance in school, leaving it up to the schools and courts to work out whether students may consume medical marijuana on school grounds.
Marijuana is Still a Schedule I Controlled Dangerous Substance
Without an official guideline for medical marijuana use in school under the Compassionate Care Act, The Larc School finds itself in a difficult position. Despite its proven medicinal benefits, marijuana is still a Schedule I Controlled Dangerous Substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Its possession and use is still illegal in most states, including New Jersey. Allowing its use on school grounds could spell trouble for The Larc School, significantly compromising the education of its other students.
This case pits the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act, which raised the penalties for individuals found in possession of illegal substances while on school grounds, against the New Jersey Compassionate Use Marijuana Act, which created New Jersey’s medical marijuana program. Genny and other students who may need medical marijuana now or in the future are the victims. It raises issues about the lack of a designated medicine administrator while Genny is in school, and about her rights as a patient to seek and receive adequate treatment for her medical needs.
Genny’s case is a landmark case – how the court ultimately rules on her case will set the tone for how schools will handle students’ medical marijuana needs in New Jersey and possibly throughout the nation in the future. Depending on its resolution, it could potentially spur an amendment to the New Jersey Compassionate Use Marijuana Act to avoid such lawsuits in the future.
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