Alibi V.28 No.32 • Aug 8-14, 2019 

Baked Goods

Too Cool For School

Districts struggle with new rule

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Rob M.

Earlier this year, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed SB 406, “Medical Marijuana Changes,” which has been freaking everyone out as its policy changes near execution. Last week, we talked about a wording change that has been causing legal headaches for the New Mexico Department of Health. This week, the school districts are bucking a rule that allows students enrolled in the state's Medical Cannabis Program to receive doses of marijuana while on campus.

The medical changes bill supports SB 204, “Medical Marijuana in Schools,” which gives qualified students access to cannabis on school grounds as long as it is administered by a designated faculty member. The bill received incredible support from state lawmakers.

Now the state Public Education Department is looking down the barrel of an Aug. 27 deadline for the new rule to go into effect, and school district leaders are suddenly crying foul. According to the Albuquerque Journal, Albuquerque Public Schools and Rio Rancho Public Schools have submitted written comment voicing concerns over some of the new rule's stipulations.

The spirit of the law isn't under fire, but district leaders say they are uncomfortable with the notion of requiring staff members to administer a federally banned substance. Questions about liability have been raised. There was also a concern that school nurses could lose their licenses if they have anything to do with administering cannabis. However, the rule does not require that the designated faculty member be a nurse. Sen. Jacob Candelaria, who cosponsored SB 204, told reporters that the districts are being “hyper-technical.” “The statute clearly states that a school district can authorize either school personnel or a caregiver/parent to administer medical cannabis to a student,” he said.

Districts are also nervous about the allowance for exemptions in the rule. According to PED, schools will be required to follow the regulation unless they can provide written proof that they will lose federal funding if they do so. However, the law only requires that a school “reasonably determine” that it will lose federal funding.

Candelaria reportedly called their concerns “overblown” and pointed out that the Trump administration hasn't gone after any agencies involved in cannabis that operate in states where its sale and use are legal.

“I support the PED rule because it further clarifies that if a school district wants to deny children, who need medical cannabis, their constitutional right of a free education, they should have damn good reason as to why,” Candelaria said.

PED says the rule hasn't been finalized and it is still considering its options.

Dem Candidates Talk Turkey

The Democratic candidates for President of These United States met to thrust skewers at one other last week. And if you were hoping the legalization of marijuana was going to be a major issue this election cycle, you can uncross your fingers. Questions about cannabis were the highlight of the evening.

Sen. Cory Booker, of New Jersey (a noted advocate for cannabis policy reform), and Sen. Kamala Harris, of California, called out former Vice President Joe Biden for his weak justice reform plan.

Booker pointed out—while looking like he wanted to strangle someone—that Biden helped create the very justice system he's now supposedly looking to reform. “We have got to have far more bold action on criminal justice reform—like having true marijuana justice—which means that we legalize it on a federal level and reinvest the profits in communities that have been disproportionately targeted by marijuana enforcement.” Harris blamed Biden for the current “mess” that is marijuana policy in the US.

But the real story that became the talk of Twitter last Wednesday was the reaming that Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, of Hawaii, gave Harris about her record of criminal prosecutions as California Attorney General. “Senator Harris says she's proud of her record as a prosecutor and that she'll be a prosecutor president, but I'm deeply concerned about this record. There are too many examples to cite, but she put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she'd ever smoked marijuana. She blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until the courts forced her to do so. She kept people in prison beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labor for the state of California. And she fought to keep a cash bail system in place that impacts poor people in the worst kind of way.” Cue: Big cheer from the crowd.

Instead of explaining herself, Harris responded by saying she was proud of the job she'd done and called it a “national model” for reform. She also said she was proud of “actually doing the work” instead of “giving fancy speeches” while pointing toward Gabbard. At the end of her spiel, she mentioned wanting to legalize cannabis. The place was conspicuously quiet.

The fact that this moment of the debate became the most talked about thing in the political ecosphere for days—even spawning bizarre conspiracy theories about Russian bots and sleeper intelligence agents from the Harris camp—is a real testament to how much weight the cannabis issue will have in the coming election.

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