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California bill allowing medical marijuana on school grounds reaches Gov. Brown’s desk

By Meg Ellis
Sep 08, 2018

Of the roughly 900 bills that have survived the legislative process and wound up on California Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk for signage, passage, or a veto, there is one bill in particular that will be of interest to both school students and their caregivers.

SB 1127, sponsored and authored by Democratic Sen. Jerry Hill, would allow parents or guardians to administer medical cannabis to their children on school grounds.

“SB 1127 lifts barriers for students who need medical cannabis to attend school,” said Sen. Hill, in a statement. “This legislation gives these students a better chance to engage in the educational process with other young people in school districts that decide to allow parents to come administer the dose their child requires. I am grateful for the bipartisan support of my colleagues on SB 1127 and welcome any questions Gov. Brown may have as he considers this important legislation.”

[Read More: Over 100 applicants vying for New Jersey’s six medical marijuana licenses]

The bill, commonly known as Jojo’s Act, would allow school districts and county boards of education to determine whether students are allowed to receive medical cannabis on school sites. Due to the Compassionate Act of 1996, students are currently allowed to have medical cannabis administered for specific medical conditions, but it must be done outside of school grounds.

If passed, California would become the eighth state to allow school districts and county boards of education to determine whether students may take medicinal marijuana on school grounds. The bill is named for a student in Sen. Hill’s district who has - Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a rare form of childhood epilepsy. Medical cannabis helps to prevent or forestall seizures which would otherwise prevent “Jojo” from attending school.


Sen. Jerry Hill

If passed, what would Jojo’s Act do?

One of the most difficult parts about trying to understand the effects of potential legislation is working around the “legalese.” Bill language is purposefully bureaucratic, and always borders on boring, even if the bill subject is on something as stimulating as medicinal cannabis.

SB 1127 is relatively short, as far as bills go. The bill would add language to the California Education Code, allowing: “The governing board of a school district, a county board of education, or the governing body of a charter school maintaining kindergarten or any grades 1 to 12, inclusive, may adopt at a regularly scheduled meeting of the governing board or body, a policy that allows a parent or guardian of a pupil to possess and administer to the pupil who is a qualified patient… medicinal cannabis at a school site.”

There is one crucial word in there that the casual reader may have overlooked: may. The bill, if passed, would not create a statewide mandate, requiring school sites to administer medicinal marijuana as they would administer allergy medication, asthma inhalers, or insulin. Rather the decision would be a local-control decision left up to local school boards or county boards of education.

Read More: Lawmakers introduce bill renewing push to legalize medical marijuana for military veterans]

If the bill passes, and the local governing school body develops and adopts a policy allowing medicinal marijuana on school sites, it would enable parents or guardians of Calif. students to administer medicinal cannabis to their child directly on school grounds (specifically the school office), so long as the medicine is not in a smoke or vape form.

Currently, to give their child their dose of cannabis, parents/guardians must go to the school, take their child out of the classroom, and then go approximately 1,000 feet away from school grounds to give their child medicinal marijuana. Supporters of this legislation pointed out the disruptive nature of this procedure.

Finally, the bill would allow the local governing boards of education to opt-in to allowing medicinal marijuana on campus, and would additionally allow the boards to opt-out if they fear a threat to their federal funding.

Seven other states currently allow the use of medicinal marijuana at schools, and according to a statement put out by Sen. Hill’s office, none have had federal funding for education pulled due to their stance on the issue.

 

Politics at play

When hedging bets on whether individual pieces of legislation will pass, some may wish to consider financing and the politics at play.

Luckily, if this bill passes into law, it costs the state nothing. One of the greatest challenges for any bill to overcome is the price tag.

The second hurdle is politics. Who supports the bill? Who opposes the bill? Who wrote the bill and why? Are they up for re-election? Are their constituents calling for this particular piece of reform? Or is the legislator taking a political stance on a tricky topic?

Let’s take these questions one at a time. Several organizations and legislators support this bill. As of the end of August, several organizations including some county offices of education were in support of the bill. The California Cannabis Industry, the California School Boards Association, and the School Employers Association of California were a few of the organizations that registered their support of SB 11270.

[Read More: U.S. Senate Grants Veterans the Right To Use Medical Marijuana]

Who opposed the bill? There were only two organizati target="_blank"ons registered in opposition: the Association of California School Administrators and the California Police Chiefs Association. One of the main reasons cited for their opposition is allowing a Schedule I drug on school grounds could expose the schools to liability.

The CPCA opposed the bill because preventing youth drug use has been “one of law enforcement’s top priorities” and the members of the CPCA are “concerned that this bill will be taken advantage of and potentially expose students to other marijuana products.”

As for the author, Sen. Hill is currently in the last half of his second term as State Senator. He has two more years before his final term is over. This bill could be a response to the growing cry for more direct access to medicinal marijuana for students. He could also be playing up to the fact that this is Gov. Jerry Brown’s final term.

Gov. Brown has always been in firm support of local-control, particularly as it pertains to educational issues. As this bill would leave the issue of cannabis on campuses to local school boards, it’s about as local as you can get!

Sept. 30 is the deadline for all California bills to be signed into law or vetoed. If the bill goes unsigned, it passes into law, effective Jan. 1 of the following year.

If the bill passes, parents and guardians of children that require medicinal marijuana may breathe a sigh of relief that they are one step closer to being able to give their child more direct access to their medication. They’ll have to see if the local school board is on-board with medical marijuana.

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