Drug-free school zone laws are in place all over the country. In an effort to keep illicit drugs and illegal prescriptions out of the hands of pupils, state laws multiply the fines and penalties for anyone caught violating drug statutes on school property – or even within a certain radius.
But those laws were written before the age of medical marijuana, and long before any state approved the recreational use of marijuana for adults. Many school districts and law enforcement agencies continue to enforce the old laws on school grounds. There is still merit, they say, to keep schools free of drugs and out of the hands of children.
And perhaps there is. But what if we’re talking medical marijuana? And what if the student is the patient?
A family in New Jersey if sighting this battle now, and say they plan to appeal a ruling by an administrative law judge who says the school is not required to make the on-duty registered nurse administer medical cannabis oil to the 16-year-old. The teen suffers from severe epilepsy and autism. Since being prescribed three doses daily of cannabis oil under the state’s medical marijuana program, her seizures have significantly abated. So too have the once-frequent, violent outbursts and other unpredictable behaviors.
She was getting one dose before school, another after and one before bed – all administered by her mother. However, she was still having bouts of seizures in the afternoon. Her doctor recommended adding a fourth dose, just after lunch. But she was at school during that time. Her parents sought to have the school nurse administer this prescribed dose.
However, the school and the child’s individual education provider protested that bringing the oil on school grounds – even if it was controlled by the school nurse – violated federal law. This was true even though it was legal for medicinal purposes under state law.
The case first went before an administrative hearing officer in January. The administrative law judge decided with the school, and her parents appealed. Then in June, another hearing was held and again, the administrative law judge sided with school officials.
Officials did, however, extend a compromise. They would allow the child’s mother to pick her child up at lunchtime, take her to a nearby lot off school grounds, administer her medicine and return her back to school. However, her parents worry this will agitate the girl, who is very dependent on daily routines. Plus, the school is on a busy street and it’s not generally a safe area for pedestrians.
While the battle is ongoing, her parents have chosen to only allow her to attend half-day sessions at school so she can come home in time to take her after-lunch dose. Since being on the four doses of cannabis oil (as opposed to three), the number of seizures the girl suffers has fallen from two or three every day to just one or two a week, her parents say.
Meanwhile, in response to this story, state lawmakers moved to rush a bill that would allow minors registered as a medical marijuana patient and who also suffer developmental disabilities to consume cannabis products at school, so long as it’s administered by a designated caregiver or the child’s parent. The bill is awaiting action by the governor. However, the law stops short of allowing the school nurse to administer the medication.
This past spring, Colorado became the first state to enact a measure permitting medical marijuana in schools.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 949-375-4734.
UPDATED: N.J. judge rules teen cannot have medical marijuana at school, Aug. 11, 2015, By Susan K. Livio, NJ.com
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Cannabis Less Dangerous Than Heroin, New DEA Chief Concedes, Aug. 2, 2015, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog