Douglas County school board to keep current policy on medical marijuana in place

Parents confront board about updating policy

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Since Benjamin Wann started taking medical marijuana nearly three years ago, he hasn't had a seizure. Wann, a junior at Mountain Vista, was diagnosed with epilepsy at 3 years old.

In 2014, Sarah Porter's 7-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. Her options were colon surgery or the pharmaceutical drug route. Instead, Porter moved her family to Colorado so her daughter could have access to medical marijuana. She's now thriving at Soaring Hawk Elementary School in Castle Rock.

“It has been a long road to health and she has worked so hard to fill the gaps in her education,” Porter said at the Aug. 21 Douglas County School Board Meeting. “This past year at Soaring Hawk is the first year she has completed since second grade.”

At the meeting, parents of students who are prescribed medical marijuana for chronic medical conditions asked the board of education to update its current policy on the administration of medical marijuana on schools grounds.

Two parents pleaded with the board to change its policy from allowing only parents to administer medical marijuana to approved students on school grounds to also allowing school nurses to store and administer treatment, which is in line with a law passed earlier this year. The change in policy would save parents' time, they said. The board is taking a recommendation from the district's health staff and keeping its current policy, according to school board President David Ray.

In 2016, the board approved a policy aligned with state law, allowing parents or primary caregivers to administer medical marijuana products, hemp oils and other cannabinoid products to qualified students on district property, according to Ray.

“The board was pleased to be one of the first to put in place a policy allowing administration of these substances by parents/guardians (when recommended by a physician) as we certainly recognized the tremendous benefits for some students,” Ray said in an email correspondence. “There are many success stories for these students who previously suffered from debilitating physical and cognitive issues.”   

In June of this year, the statute on administering medical marijuana on school grounds was revised to allow at a district's discretion “a school nurse, the school nurse's designee, who may or may not be an employee of the school, or school personnel designated by a parent to possess and administer medical marijuana to a student at school.”

Updating the current policy would save time and resources, parents said during public comment at the board meeting.

“Parents need to go to work and obviously some parents have past medical expenses and need to work,” said Amber Wann, Benjamin Wann's mother. “It is nice that they don't have to come to school campus during the day if a staff member is willing. We have heard of principals and other staff willing to administer cannabis medicine for patients who are students here.”

The school board left the decision to change the current policy to the district's health personnel.

“Currently, their recommendation is that a policy change not be considered given that these substances are unregulated by the federal government, and marijuana has a designation as a controlled substance,” Ray said.

Ray pointed out that the Colorado Association of School Nurses opposes the new law. Administering a drug that is illegal at the federal level puts registered school nurses' licenses at risk, the association's website says.

Storing marijuana on school grounds — which the new law allows — poses risks to safety and who has access to the drug, Ray said. The school board will continue to support its current policy.

“At the present time, the BOE is pleased that parents of students who benefit from these substances are allowed to administer it on school property to prevent minimal interruption to the child's school day,” Ray said.

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