Colorado families require cannabis in schools statewide

Written by Patty Nyberg, Associated Press / Report to America

Colorado families pleaded with state lawmakers Wednesday to pass a bill to expand cannabis-based medicine in the school.

Under current law, school districts must allow parents and guardians to possess and administer cannabis-based drugs on school grounds. A Colorado legislative bill would remove discretion from administrators and instead require school boards to implement policies that allow the possession and administration of cannabis-based drugs by school personnel.

The bill would also protect school staff from retaliation.

Many parents became emotional at a Senate Education Committee hearing as they outlined the difficulties their children face in trying to take their medicinal dose of cannabis while at school. Some parents told the committee they should quit work to deliver medicines to their children. Other families have made students pursue distance learning because it is easy to access medicine at home.

Parents like Mark Porter shared how they uprooted their families from other states to move to Colorado in order to obtain cannabis-based treatments for their children with complex medical problems. For his daughter Sarah, who suffers from Crohn’s disease, porters have seen major advances in cannabis-based medicine.

But Douglas County, where Sarah attended high school, has chosen not to update its policy despite pleas from the family, Porter said. For this reason, Sarah had to continue the distance learning.

“Are we sending it with them in secrecy and hopefully they won’t get caught?” Porter said. “We shouldn’t. There is nothing wrong my child is doing.”

Benjamin Wan, another Douglas County student with epilepsy and taking a drug from cannabis, testified before lawmakers, using an audio clip of a story about a burnt man telling a blind man to throw water on him but the blind man refuses because he will get wet.

“I am the burning man. You are all blind. I tell you why I am afraid and why I am emotional. I beg you to throw the water but you don’t hear what I say,” the audio clip said.

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The controversy surrounding the school’s hemp-based drug policy has continued for several years in Colorado. In 2016, the “Jack Act” gave Colorado school districts the power to write policies about where students could take their medications and what forms of cannabis might be administered.

Then in 2018, the Quentin Amendment, named after Quinton Lovato, a 9-year-old boy with epilepsy, allowed school officials to give medical marijuana to students.

“The system we have already exists and build living proof,” said Hannah Lovato, Quentin’s mother, who testified on Wednesday.

Lovato begged lawmakers to protect the needs of students like their son, who suffers from other complex medical conditions in school districts that have not adopted this policy.

“As the Quentin Amendment is passed as a permissible law, we are allowing school districts to pick and choose who receives life-saving drugs and who is likely to die,” Lovato said. “Why is my son more important than the family and people? Why is my son more important than the porters?”

The seven-member committee approved the bill unanimously. He goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee for a similar review.

Nieberg is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a not-for-profit national service program that puts journalists in local newsrooms to report classified issues.


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