Over the course of this five part series, we have examined the marijuana (MJ) legalization issue from a social justice perspective. The first blog looked at the passage of Amendment 64 and highlighted the kaleidoscope of issues, anticipated and unanticipated, that emerged from this historic piece of legislation. Referring back to the second blog we considered the social justice implications of decriminalizing marijuana as valid evidence indicates that MJ related crimes overwhelming result in convictions for men of color, while statistics on use and possession of MJ clearly demonstrate that White males use and possess at the same rates, leading to the conclusion that the entire system unjustly affects minority men with lifelong consequences for those individuals.1 The Podcasts took a more personal look at the issue with one on one interviews with people on the front lines of this burgeoning issue. We spoke with the cofounder of Marijuana Education Initiative, Molly Lotz, who is a pioneer in the MJ prevention education effort that has evolved in a post legalization world. Youth are getting mixed messages about MJ and a vast deficit of information exists to educate and empower our kids to make healthy choices. The second Podcast opened the dialogue further, by including the voices of some of the first students to ever receive this new curriculum and solicited their feedback on its effectiveness. Leading us here, to the third blog and fifth and final installment in this series.
For the purpose of this post, we look forward to the next contentious legislation, allowing medicinal marijuana on school grounds.
In 1996, California was the first state to legalize medicinal marijuana and since then 24 states, as well as District of Columbia and Guam have followed suit.2
Despite the fact the medical marijuana has been legal in some states for 20 years, there is still a significant grey area when it comes to the use of medical marijuana on school grounds.
This topic has recently brought Colorado to the forefront of national news, in terms of the MJ debate, as parents and legislators have come together to argue for the value and necessity of some special needs students and their right to receive medical marijuana doses while at school, just like a variety of other medications that are already distributed without any debate, including Ritalin, Valium, Opiates, Atteral, etc.
Even though the law was on the books in Colorado first (in May 2015 Governor Hickenlooper signed an amendment allowing a parent or caregiver with a doctor’s note to come onto campus and administer medical marijuana3) N.J. was the first state to have a district adopt a policy allowing special education students to consume medicinal products with THC on school grounds. Maine is the only other state with a district that has policy in place to meet their students’ needs4.
Shockingly of the 178 school districts in the state, not one has authored a policy to date, prompting additional legislation to mitigate this ongoing challenge for parents with students who have found success with cannabis, where no hope previously existed. There are estimated to be 350 to 500 students in Colorado that use cannabis for medical purposes to manage major health issues.5
House Bill 1373 gives school districts the authority to write policies limiting where on campus the treatment could take place and what forms of cannabis can be administered. If the district fails to create a policy, parents or private caregivers would have no limitations on where they could administer the treatment, said state Rep. Jonathan Singer, a Longmont Democrat who is the bill’s sponsor.6
In the Colorado Springs area a district that had suspended one of its special needs students for unintentionally bringing medicinal marijuana on campus in the, may be the first in the state to implement a policy.7
As social workers our basic core values include the dignity and worth of the human being and it can be argued that denying these students medication that in some cases can be life saving certainly demands serious consideration and reflection. No one questions the distribution of other medications that have a whole host of side effects with high dosages that are dangerous if consumed by anyone other than the person they were prescribed for. Parents should not have to take their kids off campus to give them medicine to stop seizures, epilepsy, chronic pain and numerous other medical conditions that are treated with cannabis.
According to an article recently published by the Washington Post, this debate has been elevated to a national level and after years of petitioning the DEA has finally agreed to reevaluate Marijuana’s current Schedule 1 status under the Controlled Substances Act. As we discussed in the first blog this designation means that according to federal law, the drug has “no medical use and a high potential for abuse” and is one of “the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.” In a letter to policy makers, the DEA claimed that they intend to reevaluate Marijuana’s Schedule 1 status by mid July, as that would radically change the landscape for research purposes as well as the fear schools are faced with when considered medical marijuana on campus as a threat to their federal funding.
Hopefully, we will not have to wait for 40 years, as Peter Tosh did with his predictions about MJ for this important and relevant issue to be decided.