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Can Medically Qualified Minors Use Pot at School?

Marijuana bud and liquid derivative.
By Richard Dahl on September 16, 2019

As more and more states have legalized medical marijuana, many students have nevertheless been left out in the cold.

Thirty-three states have passed measures allowing various degrees of medical use to people who benefit from cannabis, and 17 of these states permit prescriptions to minors. But they’ve been slow to extend its use to schools.

There’s a simple reason why schools have not allowed students or faculty with prescriptions to use marijuana on the premises: In the eyes of the federal government, pot is still a Schedule 1 controlled substance, and under the terms of the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988, any employer who falls short could lose federal money.

For most schools, that could amount to losing about 9 percent of their operating budget.

Some States Are Responding

In a few states, however, pressure from parents is bringing about change. Recent legislative enactments by New Mexico and Washington bring to eight the number of states that allow qualified students and teachers to take cannabis medicine without running afoul of federal workplace rules.

  • In April, Washington passed “Ducky’s Law,” named after 9-year-old River “Ducky” Barclay, whose parents say she has benefitted greatly from cannabis-derived CBD oil drops to relieve a rare and severe genetic disorder. The law allows parents to administer medications, only in liquid form, to their children on campus.
  • New Mexico also passed a law in April allowing limited use of medical marijuana if it doesn’t disrupt the “educational environment.” The law requires parents to sign a detailed medication plan that must include input from a medical professional. The law states that schools need not allow cannabis on school grounds if they believe federal funding is at risk, but also states that a school can’t deny a student access to the classroom because they use medical cannabis.
  • Illinois passed a law last year allowing students to consume non-smokable medical marijuana on school grounds in response to a lawsuit.
  • California may be close to passing a similar law. Last month, the state’s General Assembly passed a measure that would give school boards the option of deciding whether parents could administer medical marijuana on campus, but only in non-smoking form.
  • The District of Columbia took a significant step on Sept. 10, when school officials announced a new policy to permit qualified students to receive treatment from registered nurses on campus if it has been authorized by a physician.

If you are a parent of a child who benefits from a validly prescribed cannabis-derived medical treatment and live in a state where it is allowed, the recent evidence should be instructive. School districts and states are becoming increasingly responsive to the idea that students who rely on these medicines shouldn’t be deprived of them.

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