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Bill filed to allow medical cannabis at schools

SANTA FE, N.M. — There’s a new push to allow medical cannabis on school grounds.

Sen. Candace Gould, R-Albuquerque, has pre-filed Senate Bill 204, aiming to allow the medicine in schools and on school buses, and to be administered by staff.

Yet the bill allows exclusions for districts that demonstrate they will lose or have lost federal funding from allowing medical cannabis.

Tisha Brick, left, and Lindsay Sledge are advocates for medical cannabis on school grounds. Each has a child who uses medical cannabis to help with severe health problems. A Senate bill has been filed to allow medical cannabis on school grounds.

If passed, students with a treatment plan – agreed upon by the school’s principal and the student’s legal guardian – and a certification for use of medical cannabis will be allowed to take the drug at school.

Designated school personnel or legal guardians would dispense it, as the bill would prohibit students from self-administering or storing medical cannabis.

And administering can’t cause “disruption to the educational environment or cause other students to be exposed to medical cannabis,” the bill says.

The approach would be much like that for other drugs at schools.

For Albuquerque Public Schools, students can have prescribed or over-the-counter medicines at the school with provider and parental consent, but they have to be stored in a locked medicine cabinet in the health office, according to the district’s policy.

There are protections for students incorporated into the bill, too, banning discipline or discrimination as a result of students using medical cannabis.

It’s an issue braided into Lindsay Sledge’s life, who has been pushing for this law change for years.

This bill marks one step closer, she said.

The mother of three moved her family to New Mexico from Utah to get her daughter, Paloma, access to cannabis oil – the only medicine Sledge has found to be effective for the 5-year-old’s severe seizures.

But the current statute affected Paloma’s ability to go to school.

Last school year, while the then-preschooler was attending a half-day program, Sledge waited in the parking lot to drive off campus and give her cannabis oil. However, the mom needed to find a long-term solution for Paloma to attend full-day schooling – changing the law became that long-term goal.

Sledge said it’s a “huge relief” to see the bill filed.

“If it does pass, it’s going to be a huge precedent for other states also dealing with this issue,” she told the Journal.

Sledge said she was very involved with Gould to craft the proposal, adding that she studied a similar piece of legislation in Colorado as a frame of reference.

Gould’s filing comes after Sledge and Tisha Brick, another New Mexico mother who is fighting for medical cannabis oil on school grounds, shared their stories with the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee in October, chronicling their battles to send kids to school under current state law, which prohibits the medical cannabis on school grounds.

Brick’s 11-year-old son, Anthony, uses cannabis oil for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and a type of schizophrenia.

Sledge plans to speak to legislators during this year’s session, which started Tuesday, to share her story once again and advocate for the bill.

The proposed legislation would allow a district to be exempt if it could prove that it could lose or has lost federal funding as a result of allowing medical cannabis in school settings.

Paloma’s mother says she is optimistic APS won’t push back if the bill passes.

“I’m hopeful APS will implement this if it gets passed, because they would be setting the standard for every other district in the state,” she said. “If the law is changed, I’m hopeful it will be an easy transition.”

APS Board of Education President David Peercy said the board will have to take a stance in the future if the bill passes.

“We have not discussed this bill or the issue in general, so there is no board position at this time. Our government relations staff will keep us informed on this bill, as well as all education-related bills. As this bill progresses, the board and administration may decide to take a position,” he wrote in an email to the Journal.

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