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Schoolhouse Pot: Bill Would Let MMJ in WA Public Schools

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Schoolhouse Pot: Bill Would Let MMJ in WA Public Schools

A bill making its way through the Washington state legislature would require public schools to accommodate students who use medical marijuana by allowing their caregivers to administer cannabis medicine on school grounds, on a school bus and at school-sponsored events. The bill would also prohibit students from using smoking or other forms of inhalation to medicate.

This week saw the first hearing for House Bill 1060 in Washington State’s Health Care and Wellness Committee.

Along with providing public school students a way to medicate, the bill would require school boards across the state to adopt policies authorizing parents, guardians, and primary caregivers to administer marijuana to a student for medical purposes while the student is on school grounds, aboard a school bus, or attending a school-sponsored event. The law would also prohibit students from consuming their medical cannabis via smoking or other methods involving inhalation.

The bipartisan effort is being led by two House of Representatives members from Washington’s 19th legislative district, Democrat Brian Blake — who also serves as Agriculture and National Resources Committee Chairman — and Republican Jim Walsh. Joining them as cosponsors are Representatives Sherry Appleton and Mike Chapman.

Rep. Blake’s inspiration for writing the bill was constituent John Barclay. Barclay’s daughter River, who he calls Ducky, suffers from a severe form of epilepsy.

At age 4, Ducky began suffering from major seizures and was immediately subjected to various therapies. One of the most effective proved to be an experimental CBD program, but unfortunately, the program did not prove to be a permanent solution for the Barclays.

Not to be hindered in providing his daughter a better quality of life, he learned to produce CBD oils himself. Now producing the medicine at home, Barclay saw immediate benefits from his concoction in regards to both the frequency and severity of Ducky’s seizures.

The chosen dosage is a cookie with oil on it multiple times a day. This strategy has proven effective in curbing Ducky’s seizures, but not keeping her in the classroom. Currently she is required to be completely signed out to leave the premises to medicate during school hours.

Rep. Blake said kids like Ducky (and her dad) are the reason for the bill and that Barclay helped him to write the legislation. Once Jim Walsh (also an acquaintance of Barclay) was elected, he came into the fold as a cosponsor from across the aisle.

“This bill would allow [Barclay] to go to the school, feed her a cookie and she could go back to class,” Blake said. “[Walsh and I] are working together now to push the bill.”

Blake felt Tuesday’s hearing resulted in solid progress moving the bill forward and thinks the questions being brought up by the committee were both good and reasonable.

One of the questions raised by the committee was how broad the timeline requirements would be across the state. The situation isn’t quite as dire in every district, so opening timelines a bit more on implementation doesn’t seem to be an issue.

“I’m open to that,” Blake said. “I just want the schools to have the tools to deal with this if they get in a situation they get a child thats needs this kind of therapy.”

Blake is confident it will come out of committee (albeit with amendments) and isn’t worried about getting it onto the floor. But once he does, getting the win in the legislature is far from a done deal.

“This place is designed to kill legislation, not pass it” Blake said. “You do your best to nudge the bill along and hope it makes it.”

The state’s previous Superintendent of Public Instruction has been unreceptive to the idea of allowing cannabis medication for students. In a 2013 statement following the passage of adult use legalization in the state, he pointed to federal law as his reason.

“To receive federal funds, districts must abide by the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act and must have a Drug and Tobacco-Free Workplace and a similar student policy in place,” he wrote. “Each district’s policy has a number of common requirements about marijuana and other drugs.”

We’ve reached out to the new superintendent who took office this week to get their thoughts on HB 1060. At press time they have not yet responded. 

UPDATED [1/18/17 @1:10 p.m. PST]

When asked about the bill, Communications Director for the Office of the Superintendent, Nathan Olson, said their official stance on HB 1060 comes down to three main points and follows roughly the same reasoning as the previous Superintendent.

“First we respect,acknowledge and are sympathetic to parents who need marijuana,” Olson said. “Second we recognize a lot of care was taken to craft the bill, for example the banning of inhaled medicines and the very few parents and caregivers able to dispense marijuana to students. Ultimately, the biggest issue for us is that schools are drug-free per federal law — that could put federal funds we receive in jeopardy.”

When asked if accommodations for these students hinges on a legal change at the federal level, Olson said yes. 

TELL US, should students be able to medicate at school?

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