CO: District 51 Ponders Medical Marijuana Policy

Photo Credit: David Zalubowski

School District 51 Board of Education members are considering a new policy that would allow parents to administer medical marijuana to their children on school grounds.

The policy would let parents, guardians or caregivers give a child non-smokeable marijuana — such as oils, tinctures, edible products or lotions — at school if the child has a medical marijuana license.

Like many school districts across Colorado, District 51 has been slow to create rules based on a 2015 state law that allows parents to administer medical marijuana to their children at school.

But the policy, which was considered by board members for the first time on Tuesday, may need further revision before it’s approved.

Colorado legislators this year passed House Bill 1286, which enables school nurses and qualified staff members to administer medical marijuana to students at school. The bill is awaiting Gov. John Hickenlooper’s signature.

School board member Paul Pitton said the board’s primary concern is that under federal law, marijuana is still illegal.

“We want to take into account that we’ve got students who have some medical needs, and so we’re trying to accommodate that, but there could be issues with the federal government,” Pitton said.

Pitton said school board members have felt some pressure to create a policy from parents and local activist groups.

“It’s been hard for all of us to go in that direction, but there’s a lot of political pressure to do this,” Pitton said. “The bottom line is we’re trying to make sure we take care of kids and allow them to have the best education possible. So if (medical marijuana) is something that for the very select few makes a difference and helps them, I guess we have to go along with that.”

If signed by Hickenlooper, HB1286 would not require school nurses or staff to administer medical marijuana, but it gives them the option to do so and regulates the process.

The pending District 51 policy does not allow school staff to administer or possess medical marijuana in any form.

School board President Tom Parrish said he has heard from school nursing staff that there are local parents who want to bring in and administer medical marijuana to their child on campus.

“The problem with medical marijuana is there’s still federal liability with it,” Parrish said. “The state may say it’s OK, but you’ve got to be really careful that you don’t run afoul of federal law.”

The pending District 51 policy allows the district several outs from allowing medical marijuana to be given to students on campus.

Permission can be revoked if the student or the parent violates the policy “or demonstrates an inability to responsibly follow this policy’s parameters.”

Additionally, the School District superintendent can suspend the policy “if the federal government indicates that the district’s federal funds are jeopardized” by medical marijuana being administered on school grounds.