It’s back-to-school season for D.C. students, but 11-year-old Zoey Carty isn’t able to join the other students in the classroom.
She suffers from frontal lobe epilepsy and experiences seizures, sometimes up to dozens of times a day.
Zoey’s mother, Dawn Lee-Carty, found prescription drugs didn't work.
“They don't make me feel good," Zoey said. "They make me want to go lay down, they give me headaches and leg aches, and they just don't feel good. I get tired afterwards."
They said the only form of treatment for her severe seizures has been medical cannabis and CBD oil, which she takes through a small inhaler. But D.C. public law banned Zoey from taking her medicine at school.
Her mother said it “means the world” to see her daughter alert and happy.
“To have a place where she belongs means the world to me,” Lee-Carty said.
The debate surrounding medical cannabis in schools is playing out across the country. While more than 30 states have legalized medical cannabis, most don't allow it in schools.
D.C. law makes it legal for minors to qualify for medical cannabis treatment, but the law is silent when it comes to being used in schools.
Zoey’s mother called council members, the mayor’s office and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. On Friday, Norton sent a letter to Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson advocating on behalf of Zoey’s condition.
“A policy, compliant with federal law, that would allow the student to use her medical cannabis inhaler in school would prove beneficial to this student,” the letter reads. “Medical cannabis, of course, is already legal in the District, and it would seem logical to allow consumption of this medicine, especially when needed immediately, where the student frequently is — at school.”
On Tuesday, D.C. Public Schools clarified its policy, telling News4 that health professionals will administer medical cannabis to students in schools.
“That's good. That's good, and now we need to make it 50 states,” Lee-Carty said. “I mean I'm so happy that D.C. schools are able to do this, but it should be able to touch all 50 states because this is not an isolated incident.”
While the D.C. policy allows all patients in public schools to access medical cannabis, Zoey’s case is more complicated.
She attends Friendship Public Charter School, which, along with private schools in D.C., can make their own policies independent of state law. Friendship Charter School declined to comment as to whether Zoey and other students will be allowed to take their medical cannabis to school.
“That’s another thing that doesn’t make me feel good,” Zoey said. “I should go to school either way, medicine or no medicine.”
Credit Mark Segraves and Allison Park at NBC4 DC