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One of the major battlegrounds over federal and state cannabis laws is the public school system, where students who are taking state-legal cannabis medications are being prevented from using their medicine. Legislators in Maine, Colorado, and New Jersey have stepped up to pass laws allowing parents or caregivers to administer medical marijuana on school property, and now Georgia Rep. Allen Peake is pushing to add the Peach State to the list of states protecting children's rights to use their medicine as directed.
There are over 3,000 Georgians currently registered to use medical cannabis in the state, about a third of whom are children. Most of these children are taking cannabis-based medicines to treat epileptic disorders, and some must take medication several times a day. For a student, this means ingesting the substance while at school, but federal law prohibits any use of cannabis within 1,000 feet of any school, even if legal under state law. As a result, many school districts across the country, even in progressive states like California, ban any use of medical cannabis for fear of losing federal funding.
“These children need this medicine. It’s having a significant improvement on the quality of life for them,” state Rep. Peake said to local NBC affiliate WMGT. “Most of the school systems have said it’s a violation of federal law and therefore ‘we’re not going to allow it at all’ and so that really presents a challenge for families whose kids need this medicine on a daily basis.” Peake is working with other state legislators to find a way to allow school systems to make exceptions for students on the MMJ registry.
Although southern states have historically been slow to embrace cannabis reform, there is a groundswell of support for decriminalization and even full legalization in Georgia. Last year, Atlanta and a few counties around the state passed ordinances decriminalizing low-level cannabis possession, and earlier this month, state Senator Curt Thompson proposed a bill that would legalize the possession, sale, and use of “small amounts of marijuana.” The bill would not legalize cannabis directly, but would instead place a question on this year's election ballot, allowing Georgia voters to decide the fate of cannabis legalization in their state.