Jack Splitt was the inspiration behind “Jack’s Law,” which requires schools to allow parents to provide medical marijuana treatment to their children on school grounds. He died in August 2016 at age 15. (Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post)

Because Jack Splitt stood strong and tall, others may suffer less

Too often while observing the supercharged public policy arena, we forget why so many go to so much trouble to battle over legislation in the first place.

While it can get obtuse and verbose at times — and mean and petty — it’s ultimately about people.

This week, we were reminded of — and humbled by — the story of Jack Splitt’s brave efforts to help children and families dealing with extreme medical conditions and diseases.

Splitt, who died Wednesday at the age of 15, became the face of the successful push to allow children suffering from the kinds of ailments who see benefit from medical marijuana to be able to use it in the classroom.

Having the guts and the character to stare down the enormous taboo subject of marijuana in schools is one thing. Taking up that challenge from a wheelchair while trapped in a body frequently wracked with pain from his struggle with cerebral palsy makes Splitt’s accomplishments all the more amazing.

Splitt’s efforts before state lawmakers are broadly credited with changing perceptions of medical marijuana here. So much so that legislation Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into the rule books this June is known as “Jack’s Law.” The measure requires schools to let parents treat children with medical marijuana while on campus. It went into effect this school year.

The young man experienced the discrimination he prevailed against first-hand. As The Denver Post’s Monte Whaley and Ricardo Baca recounted this week, a school employee in February 2015 peeled off a skin patch Splitt wore that was delivering medical marijuana. He needed the drug in that patch to deal with debilitating muscle contractions.

Splitt and his mother, Stacey Linn, took action. Working at the Capitol, they helped pass a law that year that gave schools permission to craft policies to allow for use of medical marijuana.

Seeing that the measure wasn’t getting the job done, Splitt and his mother returned to the legislature this year to pass the stronger rules now in place.

Lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum praised Splitt and sought him out. They praised him again this week. As marijuana advocate Rep. Jonathan Singer noted, Splitt made them see medical marijuana not as a “Cheech-and-Chong subject” but as about “kids’ lives and their well-being.”

Yes, the question of marijuana use and children is tricky. The debate is made more difficult by the federal government’s longstanding war on drugs, but even that is beginning to change, as we saw recently with the opening up of more scientific testing. The shift is occurring thanks in large part to the pioneering families and kids like Splitt.

Hours before Splitt left us, his brother Cooper dreamed the brave young man stood before him tall and strong and in a powerful voice said: “Please do not be sad. I am free.”

We humbly join those celebrating Splitt’s contribution to freedom.

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This story was first published on DenverPost.com