Ashley Surin is the inspirations for Illinois’s new law allowing students to use medical marijuana on school grounds. After a judge last year ruled in favor of Ashley’s parents who were suing the state for barring their child from school after discovering she was using cannabis to reduce her epileptic seizures, lawmakers took initiative creating Ashley’s Law. Both the Illinois House of Representatives and Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of the law that permits the parents or guardians of students who have been granted permission to use medical cannabis in Illinois, to administer cannabis infused products on their children while at school.
The only thing that stood in the way of the bill becoming law was Governor Bruce Rauner who has been a long time opponent of legalizing anything having to do with cannabis. However, upon gaining further knowledge of the nature of the medical marijuana products being used, their medicinal qualities and the overwhelming support of the law, Governor Rauner signed the bill last week making it law. It is not just a huge step for Illinois but also possibly a big step for the nation as a whole.
Illinois has a fairly restrictive medical marijuana program and while Governor Rauner has never been a supporter of cannabis legalization, like most metropolitan areas, the city of Chicago is in support of legalization. A ballot initiative to legalize adult-use marijuana was approved by 63% of Cook County voters (Chicago is in Cook County) during the March primary election. It was a non-binding decision but certainly sent a message to lawmakers throughout the state of Illinois.
Beyond voters wanting recreational marijuana in Illinois, the decision to pass Ashley’s Law could reverberate throughout the country. It is not just about the rights of state approved medical marijuana patients around the country, but also about laws and perspective on cannabis consumption in public or on public school grounds. A number of medical marijuana patients have lost their jobs testing positive for THC during employer drug tests in states that have medical marijuana programs. Other students have been barred from school for consuming medical cannabis, and children have even been removed from their parents’ custody after the parents administered medical cannabis on them. Some children, like Alexis Bortell who also suffers from epileptic seizures, have been forced to flee their state due to cannabis prohibition and move to states like Colorado just to have access to their medication.
Whether Illinois legalizes adult-use cannabis anytime soon, is unknown. States like Michigan and North Dakota will vote on recreational marijuana in November. The real question to ask is, when will marijuana be legal everywhere? Right now the STATES Act is the bill going through Congress that has the most promise as it has bipartisan support. While the bill does not legalize cannabis federally, it would reschedule cannabis and open the door to banks working more openly with cannabis businesses. Ashley’s Law though may set another precedent nationwide that will allow medical marijuana student patients to consume cannabis in public schools and may even affect decisions about general consumption of cannabis in public.