Schools in Colorado must allow students in need of medical marijuana’s health benefits to use medical cannabis products in school.
Colorado’s Senate unanimously voted 35-0 in favor of the bill last Tuesday. Governor Hickenlooper has issued support for the bill and will sign it into law,
A year ago, a similar amendment was signed into that allowed nurses and parents to administer medical marijuana to students, but did not force schools to allow medical marijuana for students. Given the option to agree with this permitted use, Colorado’s school districts would not agree to let students medicate in school–so the issue was pushed a step further by advocates and parents.
Likewise, this new bill requires all of Colorado’s schools to allow medical marijuana derivative medicines like tinctures, patches, and edibles. Students are still not allowed to smoke medical cannabis in school, however.
For Colorado’s students with illnesses like epilepsy and their family’s, this bill provides a major sigh of relief. They will no longer be forced to choose between attending school and utilizing their medical marijuana.
Colorado joins New Jersey as the second state to officially permit cannabis use in all schools.
Schools throughout Colorado will begin gathering information on students who are caught using or distributing marijuana in hopes of monitoring the impact recreational legalization is having in the state.
Although schools have been tracking student drug offenses, there has been no separation of marijuana issues from other drugs. Jane Urschel, the deputy executive director of the Colorado Association of School Boards, said that that some schools have reported an increase in marijuana usage while others have not. State lawmakers now want to see organized and definite records of cannabis-related issues 18 months after recreational shops were legalized.
This comes as an addition to the 2012 law that directed law enforcement and district attorneys to gather information on the punishment of students and whether they are being arrested or ticketed, rather than being disciplined by educators for minor offenses.
The 2012 law has also been revised to track the involvement of police in student discipline, in hopes of understanding demographic trends for student punishment and the handling of issues between law enforcement and school officials.
One of the lawmakers behind the bill, Republican Rep. Polly Lawrence, said:
“I think we need to get an accurate picture of what our trends are at our schools, what sort of impact legalization has had on our kids.”
Previous data collection has been inconsistent. Only 74 out of 246 law enforcement agencies throughout Colorado were sharing information with the Colorado Department of Safety, and only six of 22 Colorado district attorneys had participated.
Every district attorney has now shared data on students who have been prosecuted at schools, but so far law enforcement has struggled to comply with the information requests. Some reports indicate that this is a challenge for small departments, with limited staff, because it is difficult to find time to organize the data.
Colorado lawmakers are providing funding for a state staff member to organize and analyze submitted data to increase department compliance, and keep the information in a consistent format throughout the state.
The first student discipline report is due August 1 and will cover the collected data for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years. In the future, reports will be completed annually and posted online beginning in April.