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IL Senate votes to give kids access to medical pot at schools

Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP

The Illinois Senate voted to approve a bill Thursday that would allow parents or guardians to medicate children with medical cannabis at schools across the state.

The bill, approved in a 50-2 vote, awaits Gov. Bruce Rauner’s approval.

State Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, brought the bill to the floor of the Illinois House after the parents of 12-year-old Ashley Surin filed a federal lawsuit in January against the state and Schaumburg School District 54 for failing to include public schools among the places people can possess medical cannabis. 

After eight years of trying out traditional medications, Ashley’s doctors recommended medical cannabis to treat seizures related to a leukemia diagnosis. She wears a THC-infused patch on her foot and sometimes puts oil drops containing THC on her tongue or wrists to regulate her seizures.

A judge ultimately ruled in favor of the family later that month, allowing Ashley to bring her medication to school.

Lang’s measure, dubbed “Ashley’s Law,” passed the Illinois House last month in a 99-1 vote. 

On Thursday, Ashley and her parents, Jim and Maureen Surin, sat in the gallery as the state Senate voted on the bill. Jim Surin called it a “historical day” for Ashley and other children across the state who depend on cannabis to manage a range of medical conditions. 

Surin family photo via USA Today

“I think the world is finally accepting that it’s time for a change, and I think there’s more Ashleys out there that need this,” Maureen Surin added.

During her young life, Ashley has undergone a long list of medical treatments, including years of chemotherapy and a brain surgery that followed a fall at a grocery store that was brought on by a seizure.

Since her daughter started using medical cannabis, Maureen Surin said, the vast majority of her symptoms have gone away. Ashley hasn’t had a seizure in five months and has been off many of her previously-prescribed medications since March. After cycling through a “rolodex” of medications, Ashley is now taking only cannabis, a thyroid medication and Vitamin D.

“She can now talk more than one or two-word sentences, she can play, she can interact, she can follow directions,” according to the mother. “Her teachers in school said, ‘oh we feel like we’ve had a new kid since February.’”

“I think we’re watching a miracle,” she said.

State Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, who co-sponsored “Ashley’s Law” and invited the family to Springfield for the vote, noted that “children shouldn’t have to choose between their medication and their education.”

“We have to make sure that state law is up to date,” Castro said. “Qualified patients have the right to have access to their medicine no matter where they are.”

Ashley’s family is hopeful the governor will sign the bill, which received strong bipartisan support in both houses of the legislature.

Rauner’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.