South Florida

Florida School Districts Struggle with Medical Marijuana

Editor's note: Months after our interview, Rossi Andrade told the Miami-Dade School Board, when they were considering adopting a policy, that her son takes CBD to treat epilepsy but she hopes he could start using medical marijuana in the future.  

Michele Riquelme’s daughter takes it for brain cancer. Jacel Delgadillo’s son for seizures.

Seth Hyman’s daughter and Rossi Andrade’s son for epilepsy.

Medical marijuana is what brings the four South Florida parents together.

“I feel every story because it’s my story,” said Andrade.

They know the difficulties of treating a child with a life-threatening illness and the stigma that comes with the use of medical marijuana.

“They think of a pothead,” said Riquelme. “They just want to get high.”

But she says her daughter, Arianna, who has been living with a rare brain tumor since she was a toddler, has no other option.

In 2015, doctors gave her two years to live.

Her tumor hasn't changed in size since the devastating diagnosis but Riquelme says Arianna’s health improved after turning to medical marijuana.

They agreed to talk about it publicly in hopes that their stories help to educate the public and other parents.

“If you haven’t lived it, if it’s not your child, there’s no way to possibly understand,” said Riquelme.

Hyman echoed the sentiment.

“You don’t know what we go through every day. The pain that we see our children in every day. Are they going to wake up in the morning? Is this going to be the last day? Are they going to have a seizure that will take them? That’s what this is really about,” Hyman said while fighting back tears.

They want their kids to live as normal a life as possible, which means going to school.

Florida law requires school districts to adopt a policy to ensure access to the medication. However, many schools worry about losing federal funds if they implement a policy since medical marijuana is illegal under federal law.

NBC 6 Investigators reached out to every school district in the state.

From the Panhandle to Broward County, a dozen districts have enacted medical marijuana policies in the past few months. Ten others are in the process of creating one.

“I think a lot of other school districts will follow,” said Hyman.

Miami-Dade, the largest school system in the state, doesn't have a medical marijuana policy in place.

In a statement, the district said that they haven’t had any student come forward who needs to take the drug during school hours and that they will deal with it “on a case-by-case basis.”

Delgadillo is certain that there are more parents who will benefit from having a policy but she says they are afraid of speaking out.

“We’re afraid of them kicking us out, of them discriminating,” she said. “We don’t want that as parents.”

Delgadillo encourages them to come forward.

“If they don’t come out, Miami-Dade will continue saying we don’t have any children taking medical marijuana.”

Andrade’s son goes to one of the district’s public schools but she says he takes his medication at home for now.

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