Lawmaker tries again to allow medical cannabis at school

Lawmaker tries again to allow medical cannabis at school

(Calif.) A bill seeking to ensure that students who rely on medical cannabis can take it at school under parent supervision has been re-introduced after it moved through the Legislature last year, only to be vetoed by former-Gov. Jerry Brown.

The author of both bills, Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, will present his case again today to the Senate Education Committee–which last year approved of the bill by a near unanimous margin.

“It is vital that we lift the barriers for students with serious medical conditions who rely on medical cannabis to attend school,” Hill said in a statement. “SB 223 makes it easier for these children and teens to get the medicine they need without disrupting their school.”

Under his prior bill, boards of education would have had the authority to allow a student’s parent or guardian to administer non-smoking forms of medical cannabis to the child on school grounds under certain conditions.

Pain relief is perhaps one of the most common uses of the drug under a doctor’s care, but health care experts say that marijuana can also be effective in reducing muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis or nausea from chemotherapy, as well as poor appetite and weight loss caused by some chronic illnesses.

Both the prior bill and its current rendition–known as Jojo’s Act–was named for a South San Francisco High School student living with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy. Jojo’s mother told lawmakers last year that before her son started taking medical cannabis, he would suffer as many as 50 seizures a day, leaving him barely able to function, let alone attend school.

Now she said her son rarely has seizures, and was able to regularly attend school and earn his diploma.

Ultimately, Hill’s prior bill was vetoed by Brown, who called it “overly broad,” and said that it “goes too far–further than some research has–to allow use of medical marijuana for youth.”

This time could be different. Now, Gov. Gavin Newsom would have the final say on SB 223. Newsom was arguably the most visible California politician embracing marijuana legalization before Proposition 64–which legalized recreation marijuana in California–even made the ballot.

And just last year, a state administrative law judge ruled that Rincon Valley Union School District must allow a student's nurse to administer medical marijuana, as needed, on campus and on school transportation.

That case arose from a dispute over whether the district was required to allow the child to attend a public campus and use school transportation since she required administration of a rescue medication for seizures which contains Tetrahydrocannabinol, or TCH, the part of the marijuana plant that creates a "high."

The ruling was limited to the student involved in the case, who has Dravet Syndrome, a disorder that causes severe and frequent seizures, and uses THC oil to stop seizures when they occur.

Hill’s new bill contains the same conditions to administering medical cannabis as SB 1127, including–among other things–that the cannabis not be stored on campus; that the school keep a copy of the child’s medical cannabis recommendation on file; and that the student’s medical cannabis is in a non-smokable or non-vapable form. Typically, medical cannabis is administered as oil, capsules, tinctures, liquids or topical creams.

Seven states–Illinois, Delaware, Maine, New Jersey, Florida, Washington and Colorado–allow students to take medical cannabis on campus providing that they, their parent or guardian, and school officials abide by various restrictions in addition to following their state’s laws for medical marijuana use by minors, according to Hill’s office.

None of these states have lost federal funding, Hill noted.

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