She vowed not to leave. Not this time, no matter how long it took, no matter if it took being taken to jail.
No matter that the person she insisted on seeing was not in the building, not even in the state.
“This is my last resort,” Tisha Brick told those who watched her sit-in in the office of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham play out all day and nearly all night Monday on Facebook Live. “This is what I have to do to demand help.”
She’s been demanding help for three years now to get her son back into school, but only if he is allowed the medical marijuana she says he needs to calm his neuropsychological conditions.
“I have used every legitimate avenue possible to get help not only for my son and I, but for the entire medical cannabis program,” Brick said. “You cannot tell me to wait another day.”
You might have thought Brick – who lives with her 12-year-old son, Anthony, in Estancia – would have rejoiced when the Legislature recently passed Senate Bills 406 and 204, which will allow students such as her son to have access to certain forms of medical marijuana on school grounds.
Under the new law, parents must provide the school with a detailed medication plan for their child from a qualified medical professional each year. The law also protects medical marijuana patients and parents of patients from having their children taken into custody by the state Children, Youth and Families Department solely because of medical marijuana. And employers cannot fire employees just for being medical marijuana patients, with some exceptions.
But Brick, who traveled several times to Santa Fe this year to speak in favor of the bills and pushed for similar legislation last year, said the bills were watered down and still allow school districts to wriggle out by arguing that they have “reasonably” determined their federal funding may be at risk. She said she also doesn’t believe the law’s protections are strong enough.
As proof, Brick brought documentation from a meeting she had with Estancia school officials last Friday – just a day after Lujan Grisham signed the bills into law – showing the school had rejected a plan of administering medical cannabis to her son on campus because “there is no medical documentation to support a medical need” for the cannabis and that federal law does not permit school personnel to administer it.
School officials say Brick is being unfair, noting that the law doesn’t go into effect until July 1.
“The question I’ve had for attorneys is, how do we comply with medical marijuana laws and still be in compliance to get our federal money for being a drug- and smoke-free school?” said Joel Shirley, superintendent of the 584-student Estancia school district. “We’re waiting for guidance from the Public Education Department, our attorneys, the attorney general, the school board. It’s muddy, really complicated.”
But Brick is impatient. In an Aug. 11 column, she explained that her son has a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, sensory integration disorder and a form of schizophrenia.
Nothing helped until they tried a combination of medical marijuana and CBD oil, which stabilized him enough to attend Estancia Elementary School beginning in 2015, with her administering the medication on campus.
Things changed with a new principal in 2017. The marijuana was no longer allowed on campus – and then neither was Brick after she was accused of being hostile, threatening and offensive, all of which she denies.
Brick pulled her son from the school in November 2017. She was cleared by CYFD of what she calls retaliatory allegations of neglect of her son. She lost a due-process hearing before the PED last year, filed a federal lawsuit against a long list of Estancia school and law enforcement officials in December and called, emailed and petitioned Lujan Grisham to hear her out.
Tripp Stelnicki, communications director for Lujan Grisham, said she has been heard.
“It would seem to me she has gone well beyond what a person needs to do to be heard – and indeed it would seem to me she has been heard,” he said. “She has had meetings; she has been afforded many opportunities to explain her concerns; the legislative session and signing period are in the past.”
Besides, Lujan Grisham was out of state.
Hours after the Governor’s Office closed at 5 p.m., Brick remained, recording herself live, preparing to be arrested each time State Police politely approached, worrying that because she is a “bariatric patient,” the lack of food and water was taking its toll.
Just after 9 p.m., the battery on her cellphone died, leaving those watching her on Facebook Live to wonder whether she had been arrested or hospitalized.
Eventually, they learned that neither had happened. Brick had ended her sit-in after Chief Operating Officer Teresa Casados showed up and promised her time with Lujan Grisham at 3 p.m. next Tuesday. Brick said she plans to air that meeting on Facebook Live and vows to return for another sit-in if the meeting falls through.
“It’s really not that hard,” Brick said of the changes she wants. “It’s not as hard as they’re making it out to be.”
Except that it is.
“Essentially, it requires both the school and parent to work together to implement guidelines regarding the administration of medical cannabis in a school setting and tries to carefully balance the issues,” said Jason Bowles, an Albuquerque attorney who lectures on marijuana legalization. “They haven’t had sufficient time yet.”
Brick says she cannot wait another day. It appears she’s going to have to.
But it doesn’t mean she has to be quiet about it.
UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.