Last year's Senate Bill 406, “Medical Marijuana Changes,” caused a stir for a number of reasons. At the forefront of the controversy was a section that gave public school students access to medical cannabis on school grounds.
The new rule seemed to please few. For those opposed to the idea of delivering cannabis to children at school, the whole idea of involving school officials was outrageous. To those in favor, the law was thought to give schools too much freedom to opt out while not giving enough guidance to participating districts.
With more than 200 children reportedly enrolled in both public schools and the state's Medical Cannabis Program, the problems are more pressing than many are aware.
According to the law: “Local school boards and the governing bodies of charter schools shall authorize by rule the possession,storage and administration of medical cannabis by parents and legal guardians, or by designated school personnel, to qualified students for use in school settings.” However, school boards and the governing bodies of charter schools may “restrict the types of designated school personnel who may administer medical cannabis to qualified students” and “establish reasonable parameters regarding the administration and use of medical cannabis.”
Schools are able to opt out, though, if they can reasonably prove that they would lose federal funding for implementing the rule. Since cannabis is still federally illegal, it's not hard for districts to make the argument. In fact, Albuquerque, Rio Rancho and Santa Fe Public Schools all reportedly made noise about this stipulation when the law was initially passed.
Last August, the New Mexico Public Education Department published its final rule regarding the law. It stated that it was up to each school district to create policies for where the cannabis was to be stored and who would be expected to administer the drug to students. It did state that if cannabis was stored on school grounds, it had to be locked away, and that students would not be allowed to self administer their medication. School employees were also protected from disciplinary action should they decide to refuse to administer the drug.
While the Rio Rancho School board unanimously voted against allowing cannabis patients to have access to their meds on campus, Albuquerque Public Schools has adopted medical cannabis policies. APS allows the student’s “primary caregiver” to administer medical cannabis to the child in a school building, if APS is provided with a copy of the written certification from the New Mexico Department of Health that the student is a qualified cannabis patient along with written orders from an authorized certifying practitioner specifying dosage and time to administer with explicit instructions on how the medication is to be administered. The school will also require a signed Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) authorization form. The primary caregiver must complete a written treatment plan form (available on the NMPED website) and submit it to school administrators each school year. They also have to meet with the principal or designee and a school nurse (referred to as the “site team”) to outline plans for administration. Cannabis will not be stored on school grounds.
It continues: Students using cannabis products on school grounds are not allowed to drive a personal vehicle or park there, and their parents or legal guardians have to submit a written release of liability on a form approved by the district that releases schools from all liabilities related to the administration of the student's medication.
All of this could change soon, however. Lawmakers have reportedly said that school districts have abused the privilege given to them and are threatening to remove the stipulation allowing them to make their own policies. Only time will tell.