School districts are in a quandary over students who use medical marijuana, with some fearing that any help they offer could land them in jail.
Voters in November agreed to legalize pot for medical purposes but it’s also a popular recreational drug considered illegal by the federal government. And that has raised a number of questions as districts scramble to put policies in place. Among them:
— Will local schools store the the drug on school premises or will parents have to come on campus to give it to their child?
— What forms of the drug will be acceptable on campus? Can students apply cannabis ointments or patches on their skin or bring edible brownies in their lunchboxes?
— What steps will schools take to prevent the drug from getting into the hands of other students?
Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa said he plans to talk to School Board members to get a sense of what would best serve community.
“We want to show compassion and also use common sense,” he said. “We may have to deal with it on a case-by-case basis.”
Broward County school officials say they are awaiting guidance from the state Department of Education.
However, Lisa Maxwell, who heads the Broward County Principals’ and Assistants Association, said her group would fight any attempts to make administrators responsible for dispensing or storing the drugs. She said the federal government may disagree with the state’s decisions to allow minors to access the drugs, and that would put her members in legal peril.
“We would vehemently oppose anyone being required to administer something that they could ultimately be criminally prosecuted for doing,” she said.
School districts could potentially lose federal funding for school lunches and Title 1 programs for low-income students since the policies run afoul of federal government drug-free workforce policies, warned the Education Commission of the States, which studies education policy.
“The expansion of marijuana use policies in the states has largely gone unchecked by federal officials; however, the expansion into schools presents a different set of issues and could meet some federal pushback,” the commission wrote in a recent policy paper.
Seth Hyman of Weston is pushing Broward to move ahead on the issue.
His 11-year-old daughter, Rebecca, has a condition that requires her to use a wheelchair and a feeding tube. She also is prone to epileptic seizures.
She takes medical marijuana orally three to four times a day, but she can’t take it at her school, , because the school doesn’t have a policy that covered it.
“I would like my daughter to have the option to get her medication however the law allows,” he said.
Hyman believes school districts are protected due to the state law.
He works for Kelley Kronenberg, a Fort Lauderdale law firm, advising employers on how to comply with the law. He points to a 2013 memo by the U.S. Justice Department saying it was not a priority to enforce federal drug laws for people possessing marijuana for medical purposes. While the memo was from the Obama administration, Hyman said hasn’t seemed concerned about medical marijuana.
Still, he admits there are no guarantees his administration won’t try to ban it in schools,
“But if that does come to fruition, there will probably be thousands of parents with medically complex kids kicking and screaming asking why they are being denied medicine that has not been proven to kill anyone,” Hyman said. “People have a right to some sort of improvement in their medical condition.”
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