Upon discovering that they’re expecting, most parents are elated. They start planning and thinking about the future. They contemplate where they will live, how they will decorate the nursery, who their child might grow up to be, and where their child will go to college. Sadly, some of them will face the reality that life does not always go as planned.
Not every parent brings home a healthy, neuro-typical newborn. Some give birth to healthy children that become seriously ill with a life-threatening condition. Others have children who may seem neurotypical and healthy at first, but then start to display symptoms of conditions like autism or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
The journey for each of these parents is unique. Their concerns, fears, and battles are specific to the children they are raising. Yet they all share a common thread.
They are the faces behind House Bill 1060.
A Closer Look at House Bill 1060
Under Washington state law, schools have the power to adopt cannabis policies for children who need it, yet not a single school has enacted one. This means parents must remove their children from school grounds to administer cannabis-containing medications – if going to school is even an option. For some children, the risk of attending school in the absence of a medical cannabis policy is just too great. Their conditions require close monitoring and more frequent administration of medication. Quite simply, they do not have access to safe education.
House Bill 1060, is designed to fill the gap for these children. Recently considered by the House Committee on Health Care and Wellness, it would require that schools adopt medical marijuana polices. At the very least, they would have to permit its use on school property, while on the bus, and while at school-sponsored events. To be eligible under the new law, children would need to meet all nine requirements of RCW 69.51A.220.
Meet the Children Behind “Maddie’s Law”
Statistics indicate that one in 68 children fall somewhere on the autism spectrum. Around 11 percent of children have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Some 400,000 children have epilepsy, a condition that causes seizures of varying degrees. There are also many other children who suffer from seizures due to rare congenital or genetic disorders. Cannabis has been used to treat many of these conditions, and often with more success than pharmaceuticals. Maddie, the namesake for HB 1060, is just one example.
Four-years-old and cute as can be, Maddie suffers from Zellweger syndrome. It is a condition without a cure or viable treatment, and most children with it do not make it past their first year. Maddie was two when she started experiencing daily, hours-long, life-threatening seizures that required the administration of CPR. Over the course of just eight weeks, doctors had her try more than 20 different pharmaceutical drugs but none of them worked. Maddie’s mother, Meagan Holt, was told to prepare for her daughter’s passing. The family was referred to hospice.
Not ready to let her daughter go, Meagan began researching other options. She came across a possibility: whole marijuana plant oil. At that point, it didn’t seem like the family had anything to lose, and only hope to gain. They tried it, and Maddie started to improve.
Today, Maddie is off hospice. She has been weaned off several of her pharmaceutical drugs, manages to breathe through her seizures, and has even made cognitive improvements. She continues to use whole plant oils, and THC-A isolates help to prevent her seizures. Maddie also uses tinctures and topicals to help manage various symptoms of her condition.
“Medical marijuana is giving my daughter a quality of life I never thought possible,” Meagan says. “My daughter will be turning five-years-old on November 1, and it is my hope this legislation will be effective so she can attend kindergarten.”
Founder of the bill and a strong parent advocate for medical cannabis in schools, Meagan was present at the hearing for HB 1060. She shared the pain and fear she’d experienced after nearly losing her daughter and brought the committee to tears. Through her daughter’s story, she explained why the bill, otherwise known as “Maddie’s Law,” is so important.
At least 57 other children are listed on the state’s cannabis registry. None of them have access to their medication while at school, on the bus, or at a school event. Clearly, they are not children who simply want to “get high.” So why, then, hasn’t the state stepped in to protect them? To understand this, one must examine the controversy of medical marijuana in children.
Treating Children with Cannabis – A Controversial Subject
Much of the controversy over the bill (and the use of cannabis in children in general) stems from a clear lack of data. To be fair, much of the research on medical cannabis use in adults is short-sided, compromised, or otherwise flawed. That makes it rather difficult for well-meaning citizens and lawmakers to even consider the idea of using it on children.
Of course, there is evidence that cannabis is, in fact, safe and beneficial for kids. It may not be enough to satisfy most critics, but it is there, nonetheless. It comes in the form of anecdotes – children and their parents sharing their own personal experiences with medical marijuana.
Experiences like Maddie’s.
It also comes from people like Francis Young, a former Drug Enforcement Agency Administrative Law Judge, who, in 1988 stated that, “By any measure of rational analysis, marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care.”
Then, in 2015, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) conceded that the benefits of using cannabis in children “with life-limiting or severely debilitating conditions for whom current therapies are inadequate” could far outweigh any of its possible negative implications.
The AAP also voiced their plans to recommend a rescheduling marijuana. Had they been successful, cannabis would have gone from its classification as a Schedule I narcotic to a Schedule II drug, placing it under the same class as Ritalin and Adderall. This could have potentially paved a path for more studies, and may have even removed some of the apprehension that schools experience when deciding whether they should adopt medical cannabis policies. Yet, as it stands, cannabis remains an illicit drug.
Make Education Safe and Possible for Every Child
On a federal level, possession of marijuana remains punishable as a criminal offense. Because of this, schools fear that having it on the grounds places them at risk. Yet, when one considers that the state has already adopted both medical and recreational policies, the power of their argument begins to wane. If Washington state can reap the benefits of tax revenue from marijuana, surely it can ensure that all children have safe access to education.
Washington is a state that takes pride in high-quality education, compassion, and progressiveness. So why, then, do we lag behind Maine, Delaware, New Jersey, and Maine – all of which have school cannabis laws in place? It is time to lead with our compassion, to put our children first, and ensure this legislation passes. Because the safety and education of children should never be compromised, and no parent should ever have to choose just one or the other.
If you are in support of HB 1060, or are one of the parents whose child is affected by the lack of cannabis policies in school, get involved! Your voice deserves to be heard. And, as always, Everything Medical Marijuana will update you on the latest developments.