The number of states legalizing medical marijuana is continuing to grow. But now, the Colorado House has passed a bill that would allow nurses in schools to administer medical marijuana to their students.
Sen. Irene Aguilar and Republican state Rep. Dylan Roberts are sponsoring the bill, which was passed 47-17.
With six in 10 Americans supporting the use of medical marijuana, there is more support for its use than ever. But the use of cannabis in schools remains a controversial topic. According to supporters of the bill, if school nurses administer medication prescribed by doctors, then the same should be done with medical marijuana. But in Colorado, doctors may recommend medical marijuana to patients, but they cannot prescribe it.
President-elect of the Colorado Association of School Nurses, Patty Rojec, expresses concerns of school nurses being forced to choose between following the direction of the medical community and following families’ wishes without clear directions.
“There is no precedent for that, nurses don’t get to choose,” Rojec says. “We’re afraid this bill puts us in a difficult position. Our scope of practice needs to change if this bill is to work. Physicians’ scope of practice needs to change.”
Currently, cannabis is banned by federal law as a Schedule I substance. This means the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency assesses it as highly addictive with no medical value.
But advocates consider this bill as another step towards integrating cannabis into everyday life. Already, cannabis is used to treat a variety of medical conditions, and with the number of people expected to survive a cancer diagnosis being predicted to rise to about 19 million by 2024, cannabis and cancer research are changing lives of cancer patients.
28 states have approved a medical marijuana program and eight have legalized recreational use of cannabis products. If passed, this bill would allow Colorado parents to avoid an unnecessary trip to school to provide their children with medical marijuana for their debilitating health conditions. The bill heads to the state Senate next.
Meanwhile, Colorado and Illinois lawmakers have introduced more medical marijuana legislation in their respective states to address chronic pain and perhaps lessen opioid prescriptions.
Colorado’s Senate Bill 18-261 would allow state doctors to write recommendations for medical marijuana for ailments that they would normally prescribe painkillers for. Currently, Colorado only has nine conditions that qualify for medical marijuana recommendations. Because of this, many patients with even minor ailments are still being prescribed opioids.
Cannabis advocates argue that even when people are prescribed opioids for short-term injuries or ailments, this can lead to long-term additions. There are a number of conditions that people may rely on painkillers for, like Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) disorder, which affects 35 million people in the United States. With the growing number of painful conditions impacting people, the opioid crisis continues to grow as well.
And with 59% of those who suffer from chronic pain reporting a negative impact on their enjoyment of life, people generally turn towards whatever medication is available to ease their pain. This new legislation should allow opioid users to substitute pharmaceuticals for medical marijuana.
“When people ask me if we are not simply creating a gateway, I tell people this: I don’t know if cannabis is addictive, but I do know this: Opioids and heroin kills people, cannabis does not,” Senator Dan Harmon or Illinois, a sponsor of the state’s medical marijuana expansion bill, told the Chicago Tribune.
Since 2000, medical marijuana has been continuously growing. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 87,493 patients had active medical marijuana registrations as of early 2018. While some lawmakers still may not support the use of marijuana for any reason, marijuana still has a strong support system.