Pubdate: Sat, 09 Jan 2016
Source: Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, CA)
Copyright: 2016 Associated Press


AUBURN, Maine (AP) - After years of trying to keep marijuana out of 
schools, educators across the country are grappling with how to 
administer cannabis to students with prescriptions for it.

Medical marijuana has been legal in some states for two decades but 
school districts and lawmakers are only now starting to grapple with 
thorny issues about student use of a drug still illegal under federal law.

"School districts are trying to find their way and navigate this 
landscape as laws develop and social norms change," said Francisco 
Negron, general counsel of the National School Boards Association. 
"This is a situation in which the changing social norms are ahead of 
the existing operational structure."

The possibility of medical marijuana in schools raises a number of 
questions for school officials, such as who will administer it, how 
to prevent it from being redistributed by students, and even the 
legality of having it on campus. Only three of the 23 states where 
medical marijuana is legal have seen schools or state officials set 
up rules, according to the pro-reform Marijuana Policy Project.

This week, a school committee in Auburn, a Maine city of about 
23,000, approved a policy to allow students to have medical marijuana 
under certain conditions. It would have to be approved by a physician 
and administered in school by a parent or guardian, Auburn Assistant 
Superintendent Michelle McClellan said. Nurses wouldn't be able to 
administer the drug and students would not be permitted to smoke it.

The decision in Auburn came about two months after a New Jersey 
school became the first in the country to allow medical marijuana. 
The Larc School instituted the policy after 16-year-old Genny 
Barbour, who suffers from potentially life-threatening epileptic 
seizures, fought for the right to take edible marijuana. A nurse at 
the special education school in Bellmawr provides Genny with her 
midday dosage of cannabis oil.

In Colorado, the law permits parents or professional caregivers to 
come on school grounds to administer medical marijuana if the 
district has adopted a policy allowing it, according to Megan 
McDermott, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education. School 
nurses or staff cannot administer it.

While medical marijuana has been legal in some states for years, 
fresh claims about pediatric use have helped prompt schools to look 
at the issue, said Morgan Fox, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy 
Project. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics generally 
opposes medical marijuana but issued a statement a year ago saying 
"exceptions should be made for compassionate use in children with 
debilitating or life-limiting diseases."

Proponents of marijuana's use as a treatment for everything from 
seizures to chronic pain trumpet the recent policy changes as 
victories for student health. Others who doubt the wisdom of allowing 
marijuana in schools raise concerns whether the changes will result 
in schools violating federal laws that still outlaw marijuana.

In Maine, Auburn Superintendent Katy Grondin said it's important for 
school districts to make sure medical marijuana doesn't interfere 
with education.

"It's what the doctor and the family decides is in the best interest 
of the child," she said, adding that students won't be able to carry 
marijuana in school. "We're not getting involved in it medically."

Scott Gagnon, director of Smart Approaches to Marijuana Maine, which 
opposes legalization of marijuana and fought the state's law to allow 
marijuana in schools, said districts are right to be cautious and 
work to prevent recreational use of the substance.

"We already know kids report that drugs are sold and exchanged on 
school property. We don't want to see this add to that," he said.

But Fox, the Marijuana Policy Project spokesman, said laws that allow 
access to marijuana in school are about providing children with 
medicine they need to be able to attend at all.

"These kids, just because they're sick, shouldn't have their 
education interrupted," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom