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Elk River family celebrates daughter's access to medical cannabis at school after initial resistance

Family wins fight for daughter to have medical cannabis in school
Family wins fight for daughter to have medical cannabis in school 01:59

ELK RIVER, Minn. — An Elk River family who for weeks fought for their daughter to have access to her medical cannabis on school grounds saw their persistence pay off over the weekend.

The school district superintendent in an email last Friday notified Sabrina and Tim Mattis that their 9-year-old daughter Krystal will be allowed to get her dose at school, after they said officials initially told them she needed to leave school property and take medication before she could return. 

"We are so thrilled for Krystal to be able to go to school full time. It's a huge accomplishment for her," Sabrina Mattis said in an interview Monday.

The district will now work with Mattis on a plan for how and when she will give Krystal — who has epilepsy and autism spectrum disorder — her medical cannabis mid-day, which will save the third grader the stress of leaving school and disrupting her day.

Mattis praised the updated policy as a victory for her daughter and other children who use medical cannabis.

More than 40,000 patients enrolled in the medical program, including 450 children under 18, according to state data. Autism is one of the most common qualifying conditions for kids.

"I felt like her advocate. Parents need to advocate for their kids to create change and I just hope to continue to do that for Krystal and other medical cannabis students in Minnesota," Mattis said.  


The new state law legalizing recreational marijuana this year bans cannabis use and possession on school property, but there's an exception for authorized medical use as long as it's in a non-smokable form. Krystal takes an oil with CBD and THC that her parents mix with juice.

After facing pushback from the district, Mattis contacted DFL Rep. Zack Stephenson, one of the authors of the new law, for clarity. Eventually, she hired an attorney willing to take the case pro bono if officials did not reconsider.

The school district did not respond to a request for comment as of Monday evening, but when WCCO last month first reported this story, a spokesman for ISD 728 said it could "not comment on a student's medical interactions with our schools," citing student data privacy.

Krystal's parents are grateful for the change in policy. But Mattis acknowledged it will still be a challenge to carve out time in the day with two other young children to come to Krystal's school to give her medical cannabis each day.

She said it's worth it, but she has a new focus: pushing state lawmakers to remove additional barriers.

"If you're going to allow medical cannabis on school property, we need laws to allow the school to administer for the safety of the students and the inconvenience it is for parents that work or parents that have other responsibilities," Mattis said.

The Mattis family wants Minnesota to pass a bill similar to a law in Colorado, where districts are required to have policies about storage and administration of medical cannabis by school personnel who are willing — it does not mandate or punish people who choose not to provide students' doses.

They started a petition to get others on board with the idea and hope the legislature will consider the change when they return next February.

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