It’s an increasingly difficult dilemma faced by parents whose kids need medical marijuana: how to medicate them during the school day? Marijuana is legal for medicinal use in many states, but almost all public and private schools ban the drug on campus.
That is starting to change. In early May lawmakers in Colorado passed a novel bill that would let students take MMJ at school. The bill passed the state Legislature May 4 and awaits the signature of Gov. John Hickenlooper.
The conflict between state law and school drug policies, which typically reflect federal law, has become a problem for a growing number of parents across the country. The new law is meant to help them and their children, whose illnesses range from severe epilepsy to autism to cerebral palsy.
Non-intoxicating form of marijuana
These children will now be able to take a non-intoxicating form of marijuana known as CBD oil, but only in patch form, during the school day. It primarily treats patients with convulsive or spastic disorders.
The Colorado law was titled “Jack’s Amendment” after Jack Splitt, a 14-year-old boy whose school nurse was sanctioned for giving him his MMJ patch during classes. Splitt uses weed to treat his spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and dystonia. School officials ordered him to leave his medicine at home.
Most if not all school campuses in the United States are designated “drug-free” zones under federal and state anti-drug laws. This means any possession or use of illegal drugs, even for medical use, is illegal and carries enhanced penalties.
But the Colorado law would change that by treating marijuana as a legal medication under those laws.
“We allow children to take all sorts of psychotropic medications, whether it’s Ritalin or opiate painkillers, under supervised circumstances,” said state Rep. Jonathan Singer, a Democrat and the author of Jack’s Amendment. “We should do the same here.”
Children could use cannabis patches during school
Under the new law, parents or caregivers of underage MMJ patients could go to schools and deliver cannabis patches themselves. A doctor’s note would be required.
“Jack’s Amendment will assure that children don’t have to choose between going to school and taking their medicine,” Singer said.
Jack’s mother, Stacey Linn, told reporters she was “relieved” she’ll be able to give her son his medicine during the day.
“It was so frustrating that we finally found a medicine that worked, and then had it stripped away from him at school,” she said. “It was unacceptable.”
The bill unanimously passed the state Senate shortly after it won an overwhelming vote in the House. Hickenlooper’s office said he plans to sign the bill, an act that would make Colorado the first place in the United States to permit medical weed at school.
Proponents of the idea are also pushing for change in Maine but haven’t gained much of a foothold there. Success in Colorado is likely to attract new attention to the issue, some of it unfriendly.
Robert O’Brien, a former campaign adviser to Mitt Romney,summed up the opposition: “Even in a tightly-regulated regime, I don’t think more marijuana in the schools is a better idea. The kids need to get the treatment they deserve, if it’s an efficacious treatment, that’s great, but I don’t want that in the schools.”