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Move Over Ritalin: Medical Marijuana in the Classroom

I have the fortune of working in a school district in northern California in the heart of marijuana country.  In the late summer at our back to school staff inservice, our superintendent told us we had yet to have a student come in with their Proposition 215 medical marijuana prescription, but in some schools, it is happening.  According to Truthout:

But around the country today, hundreds – perhaps thousands – of high schoolers are bringing pot to school, and they’re doing it legally. Not to get stoned, but as part of prescribed medical treatment. And they don’t have to tell school authorities about it.

Medical marijuana is prescribed for a host of ailments from cancer to insomnia, so what are students using the plant for?  Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is commonly being treated with medical marijuana replacing the standard drug Ritalin.  My urban teacher friends have described children standing in line to get their daily dose of Ritalin from the school nurse.  Could this change to the daily joint or pot brownie?  Truthout continues:

“It’s safer than aspirin,” Dr. Jean Talleyrand told the New York Times. Dr. Talleyrand is a marijuana advocate who founded a network of 20 clinics in Oakland, Calif. which dispense medical marijuana – including to teenagers diagnosed with ADHD.

But Stephen Hinshaw, the chairman of the psychology department at the University of California, Berkeley, calls it “one of the worst ideas of all time.”

He cites studies showing that the active ingredient in cannabis disrupts attention, memory and concentration – already issues for people diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder.

Whether one medically agrees to the medicinal property of marijuana for specific illnesses or not is really moot, as long as doctors are prescribing it to patients in states that allow it.  Schools will need to respond appropriately to guarantee patient rights but prevent recreational use.   If I had a child with ADD, I think I would prefer they were on cannabis rather than Ritalin because it is a natural remedy.


  1. Again, this is just another attempt to “cure” a condition with a “medicine”. Sure, it may be a safer than Ritalin. But is it safer than trying diet changes first? Parents should work on their children’s nutrition first. Eliminating wheat, gluten, dairy and soy would be a good start. We tend to look for some external magic pill that will “cure” the reason we are out of balance. We should look to diet and environment first to focus on prevention or elimination of symptoms – not covering them up with a substance.

  2. “If I had a child with ADD, I think I would prefer they were on cannabis rather than Ritalin because it is a natural remedy.”

    Yeah, you know what else is natural? Uranium.

    This is the worst idea I have ever, ever heard.

  3. @ Pure Mothers

    I completely agree with your comment. I strongly believe preservatives, food additives, HFCS, etc. are causing the rise in ADD and ADHD.

  4. lol corn syrup causes add.. thats rich!

    sorry i must beg to differ and blame add on the mass commercials for penis pills and clorox bleach in between sesame street skits on the tele.

  5. Richard Steeb says:

    And why shouldn’t the LEAST toxic remedy be FIRST on the list?

    Google “Jeffrey’s Journey”

    My own experience with ADHD and Cannabis is similar. I started enjoying Cannabis most days shortly after barely graduating high school despite wicked-high PSAT scores. I went on to electronics tech [night] school, and graduated #2 in my class while holding down a full-time day job. The ability to get to sleep quickly was an additional important side-effect, as was the relief of my asthma. Forty plus years later, Cannabis is [also] an indispensable part of my glaucoma regimen.

    Speed kills. Keeping Cannabis illegal while tobacco and alcohol are dispensed freely is *MURDEROUSLY STUPID*.

    ANY questions?




  6. We need to have some context with the issue of medical marijuana.

    The fact is, we live in a world where purple pills are sold to you every day even though they may cause a coma or destroy all your internal organs. This is a world where the heavily prescribed antidepressants have side effects of suicidal thoughts.

    The reality is that even our own medical system and pharmaceutical system is far too commercially interested, and many of the drugs are remarkably risky for their relative benefits.

    Marijuana IS a magnificent (nearly)cure-all, but it’s mostly because so many of our other drugs are horrible for us.

    Marijuana is a natural medicine, which I think is why it has some of the benefits that it does(impossible to overdose, doesn’t damage the organs). How many other medicines that have been produced in the last 50 years came from a natural source?

    Big Pharma has been more interested in selling synthetic products since they are expensive and patentable, to the corruption of our doctors and the damage of the people.

    Our bodies are(for the most part) not suited well to processed items. I agree with the sentiment of the other posters that we need to be more discriminating with what we ingest. We’d rather take a pill for indigestion and diarrhea than eat a little fiber.

  7. Maybe if the sheep of america would stop worrying about how to treat ADD and a little more time trying to raise their children better, we wouldnt even be talking about giving CHILDREN weed.

    “oh i cant control my kid. he has ADD.” No you cant control your kid because your a bad parent. sorry bro.

    I’m a huge proponent of legal means for ADULTS to be prescribed and acquire medicinal marijuana. I’m also a huge proponent of marijuana being treated on the same grounds as alcohol. But the notion of giving CHILDREN marijuana is offensive to me.

    Strict parenting and a drug free childhood is the only way a child can develop into an adult naturally.

  8. Hinshaw is correct–marijuana disrupts attention and focus and memory. It does suppress hyperactivity–hence the stoned effect–but can also cause depression and anxiety according to recent studies. It also suppresses the immune system, causes chronic bronchitis in heavy users, lowers sperm count, lowers birth weight in babies born to women who smoke marijuana during pregnancy, among other side effects, and may be linked to schizophrenia. Younger kids are also more likely to become addicted to marijuana. Parents who give their kids marijuana or who abuse marijuana can have their kids taken away in some states. Ritalin may be overprescribed, but marijuana is an unproven and possibly dangerous substance to give your children. Doctors cannot prescribe marijuana, and reputable doctors will not recommend it, especially for children and teenagers. Many so-called natural substances are poisonous, and marijuana is now being genetically altered to be more potent. It can also be tainted or laced. Some high school kids recently got sick eating what they thought were marijuana brownies.

  9. This is a really interesting article. I am not sure how I would feel putting a child on marijuana or any other drug for that matter but I have MS and would consider using marijuana when my symptoms become less manageable.

  10. I have to echo Kim’s sentiments above. I had ADD and supposedly I grew out of it when I was a teenager. I took Dexedrine for five years. In reality, I just learned to cope.

    Giving marijuana to kids is a huge mistake. It may help with being hyper but that is about it. It will not help with staying focused.

    Focusing on diet is a step in the right direction.

  11. You need to look at the science of the brain. The chemicals that make your brain function, are called Endocannabinoids, they are collected by cannabinoid receptors.

    This is why it has such amazing results.

    These receptors are also found in the lining of the gut. Its scientific fact.

  12. Anna, I don’t understand your point. You say that your own experience with ADD and its treatment was unsuccessful. Don’t you think we ought to look at any medicines that could potentially help our kids?

    I’m not saying that parents should start buying weed for their kids, but I think some research ought to be done in the field. Medicine should not be about commercial interest, and it should not be ab0ut fear mongering and the “reefer madness” legacy.

    Medicine should be about helping people. No more, no less. A sick child’s body doesn’t discriminate based on the history of a medicine, it simply responds to what works.

  13. Anon ADHD says:

    The ignorance in these comments is appalling. You all clearly do not know what the hell you are talking about – nor know ADHD very well. When you actually legitimiatley have this nuerological impairment, and, find marijuana in small quantities to do the same thing as ritalin except w/ NO side effects – then you can speak on this.

    If you’re parents of adhd children, well, your ignorance is going to bite you. Your child is going to experiment with pot, and, he or she is going to be revolutionized by it. They will medicate with this eventually.

    People don’t even notice when I’m high. I enjoy being high, it makes learning more interesting and I retain information better than without.

  14. If anything I think Marijuana would calm anyone down, it’s not an agressive drug, Alcohol causes agression and alot of trouble and that’s legal, In my circle I have not know anyone who is stoned to start trouble it makes people relaxed, Alcohol on the other hand is nothing but trouble. Marijuana like anything is good if not abused

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