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Senate OKs medical cannabis at schools

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

A bill that would allow the use of medical cannabis at schools zoomed off the Senate floor Monday afternoon.

Senate Bill 204, co-sponsored by Sens. Candace Gould, R-Albuquerque, and Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Gail Armstrong, R-Socorro, would allow children who are qualified patients to use the medicine in school settings and permit school personnel to administer it.

With little discussion, 35 senators voted to pass and two did not.

Gould told Senators the bill addresses the problem of students choosing between going to school every day and taking their medicine.

“My constituent came to me, torn between using medicine that’s working more effectively for her child’s epilepsy with less side effects than the Valium she was using and being able to go to school,” she said.

That constituent is Lindsay Sledge, whose daughter Paloma uses cannabis oil regularly to control severe seizures.

Sledge has been pushing to change the law in the state.

Sledge told the Journal she’s “very excited” about the Senate’s approval of the legislation.

“I’m sort of blown away by the amount of support we’ve had for the bill,” she said. “When I first started doing this whole process, I had several people say this was going to be next to impossible.”

Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, supported the bill during Monday’s debate, saying it addresses a problem across the state.

“Since it is the policy of this state to support medical marijuana this is an opportunity to let our schools know that they need to support it for our children as well,” she said.

There are currently 175 other children in the state using medical cannabis, Gould said.

Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview, who voted not to pass the bill, pushed on SB 204 because it did not appropriate money for storing the medicine.

Gould said the medical cannabis probably would be locked up with other prescription medicines that are allowed on school campuses now.

The bipartisan bill approaches the use of medical cannabis at school much like the use of other drugs at schools.

But districts are allowed to opt out if they can determine they’d lose federal funding because marijuana remains illegal under federal law. SB 204 has a provision that allows parents to appeal to the state Public Education Department if districts are exempted from allowing the medicine at school.

The bill now heads to the House.

“I’m hopeful it will pass its next step quickly,” Sledge said.

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