Estancia mom talks cannabis with the governor

A woman whose son is a special needs student in Estancia met with Gov. Michelle Lujan-Grisham this week to discuss a new law that regulates the administering of medical cannabis and will be part of a task force exploring the issue.

That’s according to Estancia resident Tisha Brick, whose son is a special needs student requiring medical marijuana. She said she met with Gov. Michele Lujan-Grisham on April 16 to discuss a new law that regulates the administering of the medicine at school.

The state’s Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act of 2007 decriminalized medical marijuana but disallows its possession on school property. On April 4, Lujan-Grisham signed Senate Bill 204 into law, amending the act to allow the administration of medical marijuana in public schools to students who need the medicine.

Marijuana in any form, and specifically its psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is a Schedule I drug in the federal Controlled Substance Act making it illegal, according to Estancia school superintendent Joel Shirley.

In its bill analysis the Legislative Education Study Committee (LESC) stated, “While SB204 would address the issue under state law, the inclusion of THC in the bill may still be problematic, however, as that substance remains completely illegal as a Schedule I substance under federal law, which does not recognize any medical use for THC.”

“I could ask my school nurse, the only one who administers [medication],” Shirley said, “and she can refuse because [cannabis] is a Schedule I under federal law that is prohibited and it would go against her licensure and she could be charged because she is not the parent or guardian of the child.”

Shirley said he has sought guidance on the issue from the district’s insurance carrier, the state’s Public Education Department and the school district’s attorneys. “Everyone has said, it’s good we have until July to figure out what the implications are of this,” he said. “This is way too complicated for school personnel to sit down and craft a meaningful policy.”

Tisha Brick and her son. Photo by Thomas Campbell.

Brick’s son spoke with The Independent with his mother at hand. He said, “Mom put me on this medicine, five years since I had it and it’s doing really good for me, it’s helping me and makes me function at school and stuff.”

“It’s just really making me upset I haven’t been able to go back to school,” the 11-year old said. “It’s just not right for me, you know that?”

He said he misses his friends. “They’re really nice friends. They help me out with learning and stuff. They understand what I’m going through. I just want to go back. I want to be back in school and comfortable with my friends and learn. I want to be just happy again.”

The LESC went on to state, “Further, possession and use of THC is still banned on school premises under federal drug-free school zone laws. Schools in contravention of the federal law may lose their federal funding, as implied by the bill’s inclusion of an exemption to implementation for those schools that can reasonably demonstrate they would lose such funding.”

Shirley said he has written to area legislators about the issue asking for clarity, adding, “I am sworn through my license to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the state.”

According to the new law, each school district is allowed to decide policy regarding whether to allow medical marijuana or continue to forbid it, if it “reasonably determines that it would lose, or has lost, federal funding as a result of implementing” the new law.

Brick said that in her meeting with Lujan-Grisham, the governor “acknowledged there are problems with the medical cannabis program,” assuring her it would be “fixed to the best of her ability.”

“She told me the federal government has been down to New Mexico and has been trying to restrict some of the medical cannabis participation,” Brick said, adding, “so she worries that they would be interfering at some point with what’s going on with the schools.”

Brick said, “No school has ever lost federal funding from administering medical cannabis on school grounds.” She added, “They seem to be under the belief that there’s not enough people that are affected by these issues, that there are a lot of people who aren’t being criminalized and aren’t having a hard time getting their medicine.”

“People participating in the program in any way are subjected to criminalization such as CYFD (Children, Youth and Family Division), law enforcement, JPPO (Juvenile Probation and Parole Officer), etcetera,” Brick said.

She continued, “The governor and I discussed this extensively along with the PED and the Chief of Operations. The statement from governor Lujan-Grisham is that she is absolutely not okay with anybody being subjected to malicious prosecution.”

Brick said Lujan-Grisham agreed to create a “hybrid task force” led by the Deputy Secretary of Public Education Department and the governor’s Chief of Operations, Teresa Casados.

“I also asked to include Miss Lindsey Sledge, the other mother who has testified in some [legislative] hearings,” Brick added. She said she asked the governor to guarantee a seat for herself “and a couple of others” as well.

“We would be directly involved in the development of the statewide implementation of rules and promulgation as they come out,” Brick said, adding, “so the Public Education Department, the Department of Health and the Chief of Operations can be responsible for making sure that SB204 and SB406 [removing medical cannabis participation as grounds for removing children from the home] does work for everybody and clears up the gaps in it.”

Brick said her son’s behavioral problems have resulted in him being deemed disabled by the federal government, and can become acute and debilitating, requiring the immediate administration of medical cannabis to help him become calmer.

“This started with his rights as a disabled person,” Brick explained. Her son had been doing well in school under a previous school administration, she said. He had two or three crises during the school year, when he was allowed medical cannabis at school, she said.

“This medicine allowed [my son] to become very accessible therapeutically, educationally— he was at a good place,” Brick said.

Brick decided not to send her son to school this school year. “How could I send him back to school if he needs that?” she said.

She said, “He takes medical cannabis every day. He has a regular medication routine that he doses morning, afternoon and night. We found over a period of time, [my son] does have the best symptom relief with both CBD [cannabidiol] and THC whole-plant oil.”

She said he uses a mixture with higher CBD during the day and higher THC at night. The doses are in the form of capsules taken orally and he also uses topicals and edibles in the form of candy, she said.

Brick said her son, “began to have a lot of behavioral crises at school. He was having meltdowns where I was having to be called in, we were having to restrain him, he was so severely aggravated.”

A due process hearing was held by PED which found the school district was denying Brick’s son “free access to a public education” by not appropriately implementing or writing his IEPs [individual education plans] and behavioral intervention plans, she said.

Brick said she has filed suit in U.S. Federal District Court in Albuquerque, “appealing most of the due process hearing.” She is representing herself and her son.

“They never once offered to fully give him all of his services as he’s rightfully due under the IDEA [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act],” Brick said, adding, “they’re supposed to offer it, in full, no questions asked, even in a special education dispute and they haven’t done it.”

She said they haven’t performed necessary and required psychological testing of her son.

According to Brick, the district’s Local Education Agency representative stated in hearing that “they feel [my son] has no documented medical need to have medical cannabis administered.”

Brick said she also met with U.S. Rep. Deb Halland about advocating in Washington to remove cannabis from the Schedule I list. Brick said, “If they would take it down off the Schedule I that would fix this whole federal funding mess,” she said.

She said a current bill in the U.S. Senate seeks to remove cannabis from Schedule I.