The move comes after a request from Gov. John Kitzhaber following a July report in The Oregonian about Alphabet Learning Academy in Salem. A cable TV installer detected marijuana smoke in an office separate from the home where the day care is operated and reported it to authorities. The home owner, Charity Araujo, operated the day care there until voluntarily surrendering her license and turning over operation of the day care to her daughter, Moriah Jaeger, earlier this year. Four of the five employees who live and work at the home are medical marijuana cardholders.
Araujo had disclosed her status as a medical marijuana patient to the Early Learning Council. In a letter dated May 15 and signed by state compliance specialist Kristy Mitchell, the council accepted the use of medical marijuana by day care employees, provided it was not used around the children, that no kids would be exposed to second-hand smoke, that marijuana and paraphernalia were kept locked up, and a second non-medicated adult is present to supervise children. The agreement also specified that the status of the day care licensee as a medical marijuana patient and the agreement itself would be kept private unless otherwise directed by the Oregon Attorney General.
Araujo explained that she and the other employees never used marijuana while on shift, and when she uses marijuana, it is in an enclosed tent in the yard when the children aren’t present. “We don’t have anyone medicated (who) is responsible for the children,” Araujo told The Oregonian.
Since the media coverage of the Salem day care complaint hit, the state combed through the records of 4,340 licensed child care providers, finding that just nine had volunteered that they employed any medical marijuana cardholders, according to The Statesman-Journal in Salem. Just five day care providers are owned by medical marijuana cardholders, including Alphabet Learning Academy. The other four day cares received a surprise inspection last month and all four passed with flying colors according to state officials. One day care owner who uses marijuana to treat fibromyalgia complained about being forced to disclose her personal medical information, adding that she only medicates after hours when the children are gone. Another owner explained she only uses a cannabis salve and doesn’t smoke marijuana at all.
These new rules not only ban home day care operators from being medical marijuana patients, they ban any marijuana on the premises. This effectively means that not only are patients barred from owning and operating a day care, they and even their family members can’t use medical marijuana in their own home even after-hours or weekends when the children are away. However, home day care providers are still allowed to keep alcohol on the premises, so long as they follow safety precautions like keeping it out of kids’ reach.
The hypocrisy of the council’s move was not lost on state medical marijuana advocates. “You don’t make these kind of requirements for people that are using Vicodin,” Anthony Taylor with Compassionate Oregon told ABC News. “You don’t make these kinds of requirements for people who are using methadone.”