The Colorado state Senate passed a bill this week that would expand students’ access to medicinal cannabis while in school. The measure, Senate Bill 21-056, was passed by the Colorado Senate on Wednesday by a vote of 33 to 1. Under the bill, children with complicated medical conditions would be able to receive cannabis-based medicines from school personnel while on campus. The measure now heads to the Colorado House of Representatives for consideration.
Current Colorado law directs school districts to allow parents and caregivers to possess and administer medicinal cannabis to children while on school grounds. However, school principals have the discretion of whether to allow school personnel to possess and administer cannabis medications.
The bill passed by the Senate on Wednesday removes that discretion and directs school districts to implement policies to permit school personnel to possess and administer cannabis medicines to students who need them. The measure would permit school personnel to follow a treatment created by a student’s physician. The bill also protects school personnel who possess and administer medicinal cannabis from criminal and civil liability.
Parents Call On Lawmakers To Pass Bill
At a Senate Education Committee hearing last month, parents of medical cannabis patients explained the difficulties they face administering medical cannabis to their children. Some parents noted they had to leave work to medicate their child on school grounds. Others said they opted to keep their children in remote learning because it was easier to administer cannabis at home.
Mark Porter told lawmakers his family moved to Colorado from another state so that they would be able to access medical cannabis for their daughter Sarah, who has Crohn’s disease. She has seen considerable improvement with medical cannabis, but her high school has not updated its policy to allow school personnel to administer her medicine. As a result, Sarah has continued with remote schooling instead of being on campus with her peers.
“Do we just discreetly send it with them and hope they do not get caught?” Porter asked at the February hearing. “We shouldn’t have to. There’s nothing my child is doing that is wrong.”
Student access to medical cannabis while at school has been a controversial subject in Colorado for years. In 2016, legislators passed Jack’s Law, which gave school districts the authority to write policies governing the administration of medical cannabis to students. That was followed in 2018 with Quintin’s Amendment, named for Quintin Lovato, a young Colorado boy with epilepsy. The amendment allowed school personnel to administer medications to students.
At last month’s hearing, Quintin’s mother Hannah Lovato called on lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 21-056 so that children like Sarah and Benjamin Wann, a student with epilepsy, can see the same success Quintin has.
“Because Quintin’s amendment was passed as a permissible law, we are allowing school districts to pick and choose who receives their life-saving medication and who could potentially die,” said Lovato. “Why is my son more important than the Wann’s? Why is my son more important than the Porter’s?”
“The system we have is already in place and my son is living proof,” Lovato told lawmakers.
However, parents of students with a medical card were required to physically go to the school and administer the medicine themselves. Under House Bill 1286, passed today by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, school nurses will be now able to administer the medicine themselves, so long as parents give the OK.
While the law now allows nurses to administer the medicine, it doesn’t technically require them to. The policy simply gives them permission. Individual schools are free to decide whether or not they are comfortable allowing their nurses to handle medical marijuan