A New Jersey schoolgirl with autism and severe epilepsy will be able to return to classes after the state’s governor signed a law granting her the right to use medical marijuana at school.

Genny BarbourGov. Chris Christie’s signature came after months of legal wrangling over Genny Barbour’s rights to medication. Hers was one of the first cases in the country to raise the question of whether students may use the drug on school campuses.

Almost every school in the United States – possibly all of them – are designated “drug free school zones.” Penalties for any kind of drug possession are even harsher than they are under other circumstances. And these designations make it impossible for school officials to allow MMJ use.

Second state to allow CBD oil at school

New Jersey is now the second state, after Colorado, to enact laws that create an exception for non-intoxicating medicinal cannabis. This preparation, known as CBD oil, is what Barbour uses to treat her seizures and autism.

“We never thought that it would happen,” Lora Barbour, Genny’s mother, told People magazine. “It was Governor Christie who passed this bill. We thought we would have to battle everything through the court system.”

The governor’s support came as something of a surprise, given his long record opposing medical marijuana reforms. Christie is running for president and has carved out a (small) niche as the candidate most strongly opposed to legalization of any kind.

Surprising support from Gov. Christie

But the governor is also a passionate supporter of treatment rather than jail time for addicts. He has spoken about the issue convincingly on the campaign trail, and a video of one such speech quickly went viral.

The law he signed was inspired by Genny, 16, and her struggle to take MMJ at school. Her symptoms wax and wane throughout the day, based on her cannabis intake. That meant her afternoons were especially hard to manage because she couldn’t take the drug on campus. Now that shouldn’t be a problem.

Genny was attending schools in half-day increments because she had to return home in the afternoons for her medicine. She is now able to return to a full-day schedule, her mother said.

New law bars involvement of school nurses

Marijuana PlantFollowing the law, Genny’s school, the Larc School of Bellmawr, adopted a new policy that lets her use her medication between classes. She must administer the drug with her mother’s help, since the policy bars school nurses from taking part. She is limited to non-intoxicating cannabis oil.

School officials touted their new policy as the first of its kind, but Colorado lawmakers voted in May to adopt similar rules statewide. It is unclear how many students have taken advantage of that law, but it was inspired by at least one teenager who fought for access to MMJ.

Lora Barbour said she’s still upset that the state failed to allow help from a school nurse. Officials still aren’t treating her daughter’s medicine as medicine, she said.

“It’s frustrating, because is it a medicine or is it not a medicine?” Lora Barbour said. “What parent has the time to go into the school every day to do it?”

About the Author: Matt Brooks

Matt is a journalist from San Francisco who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than six years.

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