The Washington DC City Council just passed emergency legislation this week to specifically grant students the right to use medical marijuana on school grounds.
DC lawmakers expanded the city's medical marijuana program to include minors in 2014, and eight minors have officially registered with the program since then. This law allows medical marijuana to be administered in residences or medical treatment facilities, but did not specify whether or not cannabis medicines could be administered in schools.
Most schools allow nurses and other staff to administer prescription medicine to students, but many school districts have banned their staff from administering cannabis-based medicines. Federal law prohibits controlled substances on school grounds, and school districts in many states have banned medical marijuana over concerns of losing federal funding.
DC City Council Member David Grosso said that he introduced this emergency bill to clarify the current law to ensure that parents do not have to make a hard choice between their children's education or their medicine.
“Due to the continued federal criminalization of marijuana, the mayor’s agencies have taken a fairly restrictive approach to medical marijuana out of fear of having the federal government come down hard on our patients, doctors, and medical marijuana businesses,” Grosso told the City Council, the Washington Post reports. “With the cautious approach, we have often made life harder for those who need treatment.”
The city council realized the importance of clarifying the city schools' medical marijuana policy after one charter school prohibited a student from using medical marijuana on campus. Zoey Lee-Carty, a sixth-grader suffering from epilepsy, used to have 65 seizures a day before she began taking medical cannabis oils. The girl's family asked the school to keep Zoey's medicine on hand after she had a seizure during school, but school officials refused.
Following this incident, Zoey's mother Dawn lobbied the city to clarify the law. “There’s no more secrets; we’re not in deep hiding,” Lee-Carty said, according to the Post. “Even though we had doctors’ notes, we protested on Capitol Hill, I knew it would still be taboo to talk about it at school. It was an injustice for Zoey.”
Zoey's plight convinced both city and school officials to revise their medical marijuana policies. Last week, DC Public Schools, which educates over half of the city's public school students, announced that their health staff would administer medical marijuana to students. And on Tuesday, twelve out of thirteen City Council members voted to approve Grosso's emergency bill, which became law immediately upon approval.
Although some school districts continue to ban medical marijuana due to concerns of federal repercussions, a growing number of states are passing laws allowing students to use their medicine on campus. In 2017, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that medical cannabis was legal on college campuses, and last summer, California and Illinois both passed laws allowing supervised medical marijuana use at schools.