When the 148th General Assembly began its 2-year-session in January 2015, the law associated with the state’s medical marijuana program didn’t address use of the medicine by minors.
Six months later, in June 2015, the passage of Senate Bill 90 allowed Delaware’s qualifying minors to participate in the program through the use of marijuana-based oils.
And now, with the June 16 passage of Senate Bill 181, caregivers are permitted to administer the medication on school grounds. The bill allows designated caregivers to possess and administer the oil on school busses and grounds of the preschool, primary, or secondary school in which the minor is enrolled.
Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, was the primary sponsor for both bills. He said from the beginning, the focus has been on Delaware’s children and the health of constituents. Both bills sailed through the General Assembly without a dissenting vote.
At a time when politics is often split down party lines, Lopez said, it’s good to see the health of the state’s children is a place where everyone can come together.
SB90 is known as Rylie’s Law, named after Rylie Maedler, a Rehoboth Elementary School student. In 2013, she was diagnosed with a benign bone tumor in her face, which was successfully removed but left her suffering seizures afterwards.
Everyday of the past school year, Rylie was signed out of school by one of her parents and walked off school grounds so she could get her mid-day dosage of oil.
“It’s a big relief,” said Janie Maedler, Rylie’s mom, of not having to check Rylie out of school anymore. “Mentally, it was a lot for Rylie to handle. A lot of the time, kids would ask why she had to leave every single day. This way she won’t be singled out.”
Janie said she and the school nurse have been in regular contact to figure out how best to fit the daily activity into Rylie’s schedule at school. Janie said the best case scenario involves her waiting by the nurse’s office with the medicine and some water as Rylie comes walking down the hall on her way to lunch or gym. Like one of those volunteers holding a cup of water during a 5K, she said.
As difficult as the past year was, Janie said Rylie has it easy because she’s able-bodied. There are students who don’t have the ability to leave school, so their parents give them a huge dose in the morning and then another huge dose when they get home, she said.
“These oils aren’t time-released, and that’s not ideal for any medication,” said Janie. “She was representing all these kids. It was being made impossible to get the treatment they deserve.”
Janie said she believes one of the reasons both bills passed in such overwhelming fashion is because Rylie is an example of how the medicine works. These are bills where a legislator can look back and see progress being made almost immediately, she said.
The passage of these two bills means Delaware’s medical marijuana laws are more encompassing than many other states’ laws, but limitations for minors and adults remain.
“There’s still a lot of improvement needed,” said Janie.
For example, SB181 doesn’t allow school nurses to administer the medication.
Lopez said questions remain at the federal level about the use of marijuana medically, and school nurses don’t want to lose their licenses. There has to be a level of protection, he said.
Another example, is the use of medical marijuana in hospitals.
Janie said the kids and adults using the medicine aren’t the healthiest, but they have to abruptly stop taking it if admitted to the hospital. That’s not good for anyone, she said, adding those issues, and others, will be part of the ongoing discussion about how to improve the program.
“It’s not covering 100 percent, but it’s tremendously better,” she said.