Despite the racist and scientifically ill-informed history of cannabis bans here in the U.S., the science can not be more clear about the many medical benefits of the cannabis plant. While civilizations have been utilizing this versatile plant for thousands of years now, we’ve seen the most progress in mainstream and legal acceptance for cannabis over the last twenty years or so.
One of the key factors that changed the public’s opinion on medical cannabis was the potential for it to help those who were most vulnerable, like those suffering from often debilitating conditions like cancer, IBS, or seizure disorders like epilepsy. Some of the most vulnerable among that population are those under the age of 18.
Despite the many studies that show medical cannabis can help kids with issues like spasticity and dystonia, sleep difficulties, pain severity, and overall quality of life and more than half of U.S. states already establishing legal medical programs, young patients and their caregivers still have problems getting consistent legal access to their medicine. The most recent example comes between parents and caregivers in the state of Colorado and the state’s public schools.
The Root of the Problem
Even in a forward-thinking legal cannabis state like Colorado, there are still overlooked legal grey areas that can prevent medical patients from getting consistent and easy access to their medicine. For kids in Colorado, one of those places is at school.
Up until early this year, individual school principals had the right to allow where or not a child’s medication could be stored and used on school grounds, despite the passage of “Jack’s Law” in 2016. For many parents of children who utilize medical cannabis, the possibility of their kid’s school not allowing them access to their medicine was enough to completely pull them out of public school, in favor of homeschooling.
For example, after Marley Porter, a child suffering from Crohn’s Disease, was refused access to her medicine on school ground by the school board, her parents had to make the choice that was best for their daughter.
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Despite the 15-year-old being able to use medical cannabis to manage her symptoms in a home school setting, she still misses the one-on-one daily interactions and social engagements that come along with the traditional American school experience.
“School is so much more than just learning and just education,” her father told Marijuana Moment. “No friends, no after-school activities. Nothing.”
This legal grey area for Marley and her family was a key motivator for lawmakers to throw their support behind a legislative change. Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert, a Republican from Douglas County, said Senate Bill 21-56 is more important to him than any other legislation he’s sponsoring this session.
That’s why parents in Colorado pushed so hard for change over the last few years. So when they got the opportunity to get in front of lawmakers and plead for legislative changes, they made the most of their opportunity.
In February 2021, parents like the Porters and many others got their chance to appeal to a Senate Education Committee about the difficulties their children face when it comes to accessing their medication while in school, going into great detail about the challenges they face. Some parents told the committee they have to leave work in order to deliver medicine to their children. Other families have had students continue learning remotely because it’s easier to access their medicine at home.
In a win for not only the patients and caregivers in the state of Colorado, the panel’s seven members voted unanimously to advance the bill out of their committee and on to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
From Committee to Passed Legislation
Once the bill got to the Senate, legislators again voted in favor of easy and safe access to patients and their caregivers when it comes to medical cannabis in school. The bill passed the Senate 33-1 and will now move to the house.
If fully passed and signed into law by the governor, the bill will immediately permit all forms of non-smokeable cannabis-infused oils, capsules, or inhalers/sprays to come to school with students. The bill is a major step forward for patients and their rights to access their medicine, taking the decision out of the hands of school principals, allow personnel to possess and administer medicine on school grounds, and will even protect school personnel following a plan provided by the child’s prescribing doctor from legal prosecution, and even dictates the school has to provide safe and proper storage options for any of the medications they receive.
We’ve talked before about how legal wins like this one can set a precedent for other states, so this is a huge step forward for patient access. Colorado has always been one of the first to make legal changes when it comes to cannabis, so we wouldn’t be surprised if other states are quick to follow suit here.
As of February 2021, around 270 medical cannabis patients in Colorado are under the age of 18. This legislation gives those patients access to their medicine when they need it most, and just like Colorado leading the way for legal cannabis legality all the way back in 2016, this bill or something similar will hopefully be picked up by other states very soon.
If you’re in Colorado and are looking to get a medical card of your own, for your child, or as a caregiver, Leafwell is now up-and-running in the Centennial State. If you’re looking for a licensed cannabis doctor, a quick and easy consultation that takes on minutes, and a medical cannabis card of your own to make sure that you or your loved one has consistent, easy access to the medicine they need, click here!