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After 20 Years of Medical Marijuana, California Still Bans the Medicine in Schools

California Still Bans the Medicine in Schools
PHOTO Tomash Devenishek


After 20 Years of Medical Marijuana, California Still Bans the Medicine in Schools

A 5-year old just became the first Californian to be allowed medical cannabis on campus thanks to a judge’s intervention, begging the question: What took so long?

At the time of Brooke Adams’ birth, five years ago, California had legal medical marijuana. In 2013, California citizens had enjoyed the right to use cannabis medicinally, with permission from a board-certified physician, for almost 20 years. When Brooke Adams’s family welcomed her into the world, marijuana was openly sold in commercial storefronts, who bought advertisements in local newspapers and paid state and federal taxes, all over the state, from Mexico to Oregon.

In concept and in execution, then, medical marijuana was not a new phenomenon when Brooke Adams was born. Nor was it shortly after, when Brooke Adams was diagnosed with severe epilepsy. That very year, CNN broadcast a full-throated endorsement of using cannabis to treat epilepsy in children. Medical marijuana wasn’t a theoretical vagary, impossible to understand, or a complex puzzle with no solution then, or when 57 percent of California voters legalized the drug for all adults 21 and over in 2016.

This is the backstory required to process fully the nice news that Brooke Adams made on Monday, on her first day of kindergarten.

As NBC Bay Area and other outlets reported, Brooke Adams became the first public-school student in California with permission to bring her medical cannabis onto campus and to use it in the same way other schoolchildren use vital, life-saving medicine.

She is the first because California state law currently bans cannabis on school grounds in all forms.

According to the state Department of Public Health, “You cannot use cannabis within 1,000 feet of a school, day care center, or youth center while children are present.” The law makes no distinction whether the cannabis in question is recreational or medicinal.

School officials also claim that if they violate federal law and allow cannabis on campus, they will lose federal funding, though it is unclear if other school districts have ever been punished in such a way.

Other students in other states have been granted similar permissions — either after a school district made a specific allowance, or after a judge ordered them to do so.

In Florida, which just legalized medical marijuana in 2016 and where the state is still arguing with patients over whether not the drug can be used in its most common and popular form, at least five school districts will allow parents to use school nurses’ offices to administer medical marijuana to their children, according to the Pensacola News Journal. In two, Broward and Palm Beach counties, two of the state’s most populous and which make up most of metropolitan Miami, schools have “formally approved policies that respectively allow parents and nurses to administer medical marijuana,” the newspaper reported.

And in Illinois, lawmakers recently passed a law legalizing medical marijuana in schools after a federal judge ordered school officials to allow an 11-year-old girl with leukaemia back on campus—her medical marijuana included.

The news, then, isn’t that someone like Brooke Adams, a person with an affliction for which cannabis has been found to bring relief, is using her preferred medicine at school (which she is healthy enough to attend thanks to cannabidiol, which has been found to reduce the incidence and severity of seizures everywhere it has been studied). It’s that in 20 years, California school and health officials have yet to make an accommodation for people like Brooke Adams.

California public schools and marijuana have a long and storied history together: “420” entered the lexicon thanks to San Rafael High in Marin County, for good or ill that institution’s most significant contribution to the zeitgeist. Thus, it’s reasonable to assume that there were many other students at all grade levels using cannabis in school for medical reasons, in various forms.

And it took involvement from a judge for Brooke Adams to get this far. In a lawsuit brought by her parents against the Rincon Valley Union School District, Judge Charles Marson granted an order to allow her to bring her medication — two forms of cannabis oil, including one high in THC — to school.

Marson’s order is a temporary ruling meant to give Brooke Adams her medicine while a separate complaint that argues schools are not making mandatory accommodations for disabled students by banning cannabis can be weighed. A decision in that case is due by mid-November, according to the Sacramento Bee.

By that time, it will have been 22 years since California voters first allowed sick people, of all ages, to use marijuana medicinally. And in that time, state lawmakers in California have yet to make a specific accommodation for public school students to use cannabis at school.

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