The pluses and minuses of allowing medical marijuana at school

(ABC NEWS)- Every school day at noon, Karina Garcia drives to her son’s South San Francisco high school to give him a dose of cannabis oil to prevent potentially life-threatening seizures.

But she can’t do it on campus. She has to take Jojo, a 19-year-old with severe epilepsy, off school grounds to squirt the drug into his mouth, then bring him back for his special education classes.

It doesn’t matter that Jojo has a doctor’s note to take the drug, nor that the medication is legal for both medicinal and recreational purposes in California. Marijuana use is strictly forbidden on school sites because it violates federal law.

“To go into the classroom every day and have to grab your child, walk down the block, give them a dose and return them, it’s so disruptive,” said Garcia, 38, who explained that prescription drugs didn’t stop Jojo’s seizures and left him in a zombie-like state. Jojo can’t administer the drug himself because he has developmental disabilities and uses a wheelchair, she said.


A growing number of parents and school districts across the country face similar problems as more people turn to medical marijuana to treat their sick children, often after pharmaceutical remedies have failed.

Now, California Gov. Jerry Brown must decide whether to approve a law that would allow parents to administer medical marijuana to their kids at school, setting up a potential showdown with the federal government.


Of the 31 states and Washington, D.C., that have legalized medical marijuana, at least seven have enacted laws or regulations that allow students to use it on school grounds, in part because doing so could risk their federal funding. So far, the federal government has not penalized any of the seven states.

New Jersey, Illinois, Delaware and Colorado permit parents to give their child non-smokable medicinal pot products at school. This summer, Colorado expanded its law to allow school staff to administer the medication. Washington and Florida allow school districts to decide for themselves whether to allow the drug on campuses. And Maine expanded state regulations to permit medical marijuana use at school, according to the Education Commission of the States.

California’s legislation would let school boards decide whether to allow medical cannabis at schools if a child has a doctor’s note. The drug cannot be prescribed because, with limited exceptions, it is illegal under federal law — classified as one that has “no accepted medical use.”

“More lawmakers are acknowledging this is an issue their constituents care about … [and] are trying to address this inherent conflict” between federal and state law, said Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, a national marijuana advocacy group.


Some school officials in California say the mere possibility of sanctions is enough to oppose opening up schools to medical pot. At risk are federal funds, including money for school breakfasts and lunches for low-income students, that are contingent on schools being drug-free zones, according to the Association of California School Administrators.

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