Unable to attend a full day of school without her daily dose of medicinal marijuana, the girl's parents request an exception for her unique case.
The question of whether cannabis is medicine has made its way to the classroom. Lauded by researchers, military veterans and chronic pain sufferers as a miracle treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and debilitating pain ailments, there are now 40 states with some form of medicinal marijuana program in the United States.
However, the issue of using medical cannabis to treat those conditions in children is still a hot-button political and legal issue for lawmakers, physicians, parents and school districts. According to multiple local and national media outlets, a nine-year-old girl's quest to attend a full day of school with her peers is under intense scrutiny in Minnesota due to her need to take a daily dose of medical marijuana.
Krystal Mattis is a bright and vibrant little girl who has epilepsy and is on the autism spectrum. Following years of half-days in school due to her need for extensive speech, physical, and occupational therapies, Krystal's parents, Sabrina and Tim Mattis, were eager for her to begin receiving a full-time education, which is only possible if she is allowed to take her daily tincture, a mixture of CBD and THC in juice, at lunchtime. The medicine helps stabilize her symptoms and enables her to function for an entire school day.
However, the school, located in Elk River, Minnesota, recently informed Krystal's parents that she must ingest her medication away from school property and then return to class if she needs to use cannabis during the day.
In an interview with CBS, Sabrina Mattis expressed her disappointment in the decision, saying, "I feel it's unfair. It's unjust. She just deserves to be at school a full day and have her medicine like any other kid."
"I feel it's unfair. It's unjust. She just deserves to be at school a full day and have her medicine like any other kid."
- Sabrina Mattis, Mother of Krystal Mattis
Along with her litany of regular doctor visits and other treatments, Krystal is also nonverbal and requires a device to communicate. Taking her in and out of school would only cause further disruption to her already busy schedule and unnecessarily confuse her. As a result, the family has decided to go back to half-days until a resolution occurs, allowing her to take her medical cannabis during the day.
"To take her back, that just throws her out of her routine. The chances of her not understanding the whole situation and having discomfort more likely to not have a good rest of the day, as opposed to us just going there administering her dose and leaving, and it's barely an interruption," Tim said to CBS.
"To take her back, that just throws her out of her routine. The chances of her not understanding the whole situation and having discomfort more likely to not have a good rest of the day, as opposed to us just going there administering her dose and leaving, and it's barely an interruption."
- Tim Mattis, Father of Krystal Mattis
However, the family will continue to fight. Sabrina recently reached out to Minnesota State Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL), who authored the adult-use cannabis measure approved by both chambers of the State House in May and signed into law by Governor Tim Walz (DFL) just after Memorial Day.
Stephenson did speak with the family and told them about a vital exemption to the adult-use marijuana statute, which allows for medical cannabis to be consumed on school grounds so long as it is not ingested through smoking or vaporization.
When contacted by local station WCCO regarding Rep. Stephenson's assertion about the exemption, the school issued a brief statement saying that the district "cannot comment on a student's medical interactions with our schools."
Krystal's case is a unique outlier for now. Still, as more and more states enact marijuana legislation reform, the line between what is illegal and what is a patient's right will continue to blur and provide challenges to lawmakers, regulators, law enforcement officials and school administrators.
Sabrina Mattis said it best, "We hope to bring justice for children on medical cannabis, so they can be allowed to take their medicine at school, just the same as any other child in the state of Minnesota. That's what we're hoping."
"We hope to bring justice for children on medical cannabis, so they can be allowed to take their medicine at school, just the same as any other child in the state of Minnesota. That's what we're hoping."
- Sabrina Mattis, Mother of Krystal Mattis
Changing the perception of cannabis from a major crime narcotic to a vital medicinal tool for treating patients with myriad debilitating conditions will take time. However, for little lights like Krystal, the hope is that it doesn't take too much of hers in the process.