DENVER – Students would be guaranteed the ability to use medical marijuana at school under a bill that was sent to the governor on Tuesday.
Highlighting an evolution on the subject, the Senate gave unanimous approval to the bill, which earlier passed the House, 56-9.
Republican Reps. J. Paul Brown of Ignacio and Don Coram of Montrose opposed the measure when it was in a House committee, but ultimately supported it during a full vote of the House, as did Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango, in the Senate.
“I have a niece that has epilepsy and needs to use cannabis to take care of that problem, so I understand,” said Brown, adding that he has changed his thinking.
When the bill was in a Senate committee, where it passed unanimously, all nine lawmakers on the panel stood in solidarity when voting to show their support.
Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, has signaled that he will sign the bill.
“My son, if he needed medical marijuana, and he needed it during the day while he was in school, I’d want him to have that opportunity,” Hickenlooper said.
“Those kids have every right and expect that they should be able to have access to those medicines, and they haven’t. My hope is that this bill ... motivates those schools to make sure these kids can get the medication they apparently need.”
Most school systems – including Durango School District 9-R – require that students leave school grounds to administer medical marijuana, which affects about 300 students statewide.
Those policies come despite a law passed last year that allowed districts to create rules around medical marijuana.
Under the legislation this year, if a district does not enact a policy allowing medical marijuana on school grounds, then a parent or caregiver would be allowed to come to the school to administer the medication.
Some districts worry that marijuana remains illegal on the federal level, which could result in a loss of federal funding.
The bill was amended to allow schools to opt out if they can prove that they would lose federal money, though supporters of the bill say it is highly unlikely that federal officials would pull funding.
Several other states have required schools to create policies allowing medical marijuana, and use of the policies has not resulted in a loss of federal funds.
Lawmakers crafted the bill this year with Jack Splitt in mind. Splitt is a 15-year-old who suffers from spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and dystonia. Wheat Ridge High School denied him the ability to bring his medication to school.
In honor of Splitt, Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, said, “We’re still with you, and always will be.”
Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, added: “We thought we had addressed this issue last year. ... They (school districts) didn’t seem to listen so well. ... Hopefully, this will be the year.”