Colorado Just Passed New Law to Expand Medical Marijuana Access in Schools
Starting this fall, Colorado schools will no longer be able to deny students access to medical cannabis.
Published on May 6, 2021

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Colorado Governor Jared Polis just signed a bill that will make it easier for students to access medical cannabis while in school. 

Under current state law, any individual school or school district can prohibit their students from using or storing medical marijuana on school grounds. The new law, which will take effect this fall, will remove that authority, effectively requiring schools to accommodate their students' medical needs. This legislation will allow students access to life-saving epilepsy treatments and other essential medicines, but still prohibits smokable cannabis on school property.

State lawmakers initially introduced this bill this February, and it advanced quickly through the legislature with strong majority support. Last week, lawmakers approved the final version of the bill and passed it along to Governor Polis, who signed it into law this week. 

“This bill is a long time coming,” the governor said at the signing ceremony, according to Marijuana Moment. Polis explained that the bill “finally will treat cannabis the same way as other prescribed medicines” and ensure that “school nurses, teachers and other volunteers can’t be discriminated against for stepping up to administer medical cannabis.”

School boards are now required to draft their own policies for the safe storage of medical cannabis products to be used on school grounds. Any individual school staff member that feels uncomfortable with handling medical pot can excuse themselves from having to personally handle cannabis products, but each school as a whole is still required to comply with the new law.

“Like conventional medications, students who rely on medical cannabis should never be denied access just because they are in a school setting,” said Carly Wolf, policies manager for Colorado's NORML chapter, to Marijuana Moment. “Now, students and their families will never be forced to choose between a child’s health or their education.”

Sadly, the ongoing federal prohibition of cannabis is forcing parents in other states to make that hard choice between medicine and education. Although federal law requires schools to accommodate students with special medical needs, it also mandates that public schools maintain strict drug-free policies. Any school that violates these policies by allowing cannabis on its premises risks losing its federal funding.

This policy has intimidated most schools into banning all students and staff from using medical cannabis, even if legal under state law. Many school districts have even gone so far as to fire employees who are legally using medical marijuana. US Attorney General Merrick Garland has suggested that the justice department will not interfere with legal-weed states, though, so it seems unlikely that the feds would actually revoke a school's funding for allowing state-legal medical marijuana use. 

California, Illinois, Arizona, and Washington, DC, have also recently passed laws guaranteeing that students have full access to their medicine while at school.

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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