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Editorial: On-campus medical cannabis a step forward

No parent should have to choose between their child attending school or access to needed medication.

But for New Mexico parents whose children need medical cannabis oil, it’s a choice they’ve had to make. Until now.

Under bipartisan legislation signed into law Thursday by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, New Mexico students with prescriptions will now be allowed to take specific forms of medical marijuana – such as oils, tinctures and edibles – on school grounds with district approval.

It has been a long time coming.

More than a decade has passed since the outset of New Mexico’s compassionate care medical marijuana program, when lawmakers defied federal law and approved cannabis as an acceptable medical remedy for a number of ailments. Some children with rare or severe medical issues have found relief only in prescribed cannabis oil.

Yet until this week state law effectively kept kids from getting the medicine they need during school hours.

Plenty of safety rules are written into Senate Bills 406 and 204, two measures with similar language that were both approved by Lujan Grisham this week. Proof of the child’s prescription and other documentation as required by local boards or charters will be required up front, along with a written treatment plan. Vaping and inhalants are not allowed, the administration of the medicine can’t interfere with the educational environment, and the medicine must be administered by school personnel or a parent/guardian. If a school district or charter chooses not to allow on-campus cannabis by asserting it would lose federal funding as a result, parents can appeal.

And unless and until the federal government starts withholding funding for allowing specific forms of medical marijuana on campus, districts should put the health and comfort of their students first.

Adding opioid addiction to conditions

Meanwhile, the state Medical Cannabis Advisory Board has recommended for the third year in a row that opioid addiction be added as a qualifying diagnosis for access to medical marijuana, a decision Department of Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel is expected to make soon.

That addition can’t come quickly enough.

We have so few weapons at our disposal in the fight against opioid addiction, and we know now that marijuana has been successfully used to treat the excruciating process of opioid withdrawal and dependence recovery.

New Mexico legalized medical marijuana to alleviate the pain, nausea and other symptoms of some of the state’s most vulnerable residents. And New Mexico routinely ranks in the top states for opioid overdose deaths. The February Consumer Reports included that “growing research suggests that CBD may help ease pain, seizures, and anxiety. Yet unlike cannabis’ other well-known compound, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD does not get people high.” It went on to state that CBD may help some wean off addictive pain medications and cited New Jersey’s commissioner of Public Health, who referred to “studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association showing that in states where people could legally use marijuana, the number of filled opioid prescriptions dropped significantly, and there were lower rates of opioid overdose and death, compared with states without legal cannabis.”

Growing research shows that medical marijuana mitigates the symptoms of opiate withdrawal and helps addicts step down their drug use; the state should add this use to qualifying conditions.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.