Authors: Alex Buscher, Esq. & Andrew Janson, Esq.
Disclaimer: This article is for general information and education purposes. Nothing in this article is legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.
On February 16, SB 21-056 (SB-56) was introduced in the Colorado General Assembly requiring that school boards create a policy for the administration and storage of medical marijuana in a non-smokable form on school grounds. This bill finally recognizes the legitimacy of cannabis therapeutics and the necessity for students to be in school, no matter what course of treatment a doctor recommends. . & Andrew Janson, Esq. The bill has so far received bipartisan support, with one Democrat and one Republican (including the Senate Minority Leader) signing on from both the Senate and House of the Colorado General Assembly.
SB-56 comes as a response to certain school district policies existing contrary to existing Colorado law. In 2018, the Colorado General Assembly passed a law allowing school principals to develop medical marijuana administration plans for students. Under these plans, a school volunteer could administer medical marijuana medication on school grounds to a student with a medical marijuana recommendation and plan.
In late 2019, a student seeking to take advantage of the privileges afforded by these laws found himself unable to do so because of a school board policy taking the decision out of the principals’ hands and banning staff administration on school property. This action resulted in a discrimination complaint based on the policy violating state law. The complaint resulted in a finding of probable cause of discrimination; however, when there was no clear solution at the end of the process, it became clear that Colorado’s laws would have to be changed once again.
Current law requires school districts to permit primary caregivers to possess and administer cannabis-based medicine on school grounds and gives principals the discretion to allow administration of those medications by school personnel. Principals, fearful for their jobs, have been reluctant to make such unilateral decisions, meaning parents are still the only practical option for administration. This generally means one parent cannot work in order to be at school to administer, and a child with an acute condition like epilepsy is left unprotected in an emergency. Furthermore, due to COVID, most schools aren’t even allowing parental administration. Thus, current law is insufficient to help students recommended medical marijuana in the way the Colorado General Assembly intended.
SB-56 makes the adoption of a medical marijuana policy mandatory for school district boards of education. In doing so, the bill creates the following system:
- A school board will adopt a policy permitting the storage and administration of medical marijuana, subject to certain requirements and limited exceptions found in Colorado’s Education Code (C.R.S. § 22-1-119.3).
- The student’s parent or guardian will deliver the medical marijuana in a container with instructions for use. The school board policy must provide a procedure for the storage and possession of a sufficient supply of the medical marijuana on school grounds in a manner that will not “significantly delay access to” the medication, while also keeping the medication secure.
- Volunteers at the school may administer that medical marijuana to the student when necessary. The policy is not required to compel any particular school employee to volunteer to administer medical marijuana, but at the same time the policy may not prohibit such volunteering.
Importantly, the bill also provides protection against professional discipline or retaliation, explicitly prohibiting retaliation by the school board against any school employees who volunteer to administer medical marijuana.
SB-56 will make much-needed changes to Colorado’s medical marijuana laws, allowing students with significant medical conditions for which they use marijuana-based medicine, to attend school just like students using any other doctor-recommended medicine. It is long past time to end the discrimination of students based on the medication recommended by their doctors. SB-56 will ensure this practice will not continue.
Buscher Law provides effective, efficient, and dedicated legal representation to businesses in the legal cannabis industry and medical cannabis patients. We help with general business matters, state and federal regulatory compliance, labeling, and more. Visit our website at www.buscherlaw.com.