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PED finalizes medical cannabis rule on school grounds

Michael Trujillo, 14, is an incoming freshman at Rio Rancho High School. Michael has a severe form of epilepsy called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, for which he takes medical cannabis oil. His father, Matias Trujillo, is calling for schools to allow the medicine on campus, per a new law, and pushing for school staff to be able to administer it.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — With a new state Public Education Department rule finalized, school districts are in the process of drafting policy for medical cannabis on school grounds.

The rule was officially published Tuesday, following changes to state law that allows the medicine at schools.

While that legislation was signed months ago, districts have pointed to the finalization of the PED rule as a needed next step of guidance to move forward.

Meanwhile, parents with students who use this medicine note class started more than two weeks ago and there are still problems with taking it to school.

Katarina “Kata” Sandoval, deputy secretary of academic engagement and student success, said that the rule-making process takes time.

“As you can imagine, this is a law that the PED had to collaborate with other state agencies on … there were lots of state agencies and other statewide constituent groups that we consulted with, including the public forums to get input and from parents as well,” she said. “That takes time and we wanted to do it thoughtfully.”

And she said while the rule was just published on Tuesday, the department has been communicating with districts since the law was passed.

Senate bills that were signed in April allowed the medicine on campus, a shift from the state’s previous law that strictly prohibited it from school or school buses, which posed problems for students in the state medical cannabis program who need to be regularly dosed in the middle of the school day.

Following the publication of the PED rule, both Rio Rancho Public Schools and Albuquerque Public Schools told the Journal they are in the policy-making process and are planning to put it before the boards of education next month.

Sandoval notes the law and rule still apply while districts craft policies.

“It’s law even while districts are developing policies and procedures. They still are being held to the law that is in effect,” she said.

Still, Matias Trujillo, a single father of four living in Rio Rancho, says he has run into issues with taking medical cannabis oil to Rio Rancho High School for his 14-year-old son Michael.

Trujillo told the Journal that he hasn’t seen any differences this school year since the law was changed and he isn’t hopeful the PED rule will remedy the situation either.

“It’s the same as it’s been for the last 10 years,” he said.

Trujillo had to change his son’s dosing times to before and after school, which he says is a health risk and isn’t as effective.

And ultimately Trujillo doesn’t think the PED rule was enough.

He says the rule isn’t prescriptive or specific about things such as storage or training, adding the rule requires districts to outline the details.

“School personnel are waiting for the districts, districts were waiting for the PED rule and now the PED rule pushes the policy making onto districts,” he said.

He thinks this will cause inconsistency and push the implementation timeline back.

For instance, the PED rule leaves it up to districts to decide who the point of contact is for storing and administering medical cannabis.

Trujillo has long fought for someone at the school to give the medicine as he has a full-time job and doesn’t want to interrupt Michael’s schooling.

But Sandoval says under the rule, schools aren’t required to designate a staff member. They can or it could be a parent.

“If parents don’t want to, the way the rule and law is written, the districts don’t have to (designate school personnel) but our hope is that as districts, working with their board, they will be considerate of those needs,” she said.

Trujillo said he was encouraged by the law change but with no momentum this school year and a PED rule that leaves certain aspects of implementation up to the districts, he’s exhausted.

“I’ve been in this fight for 10 years and I felt like we were working on making progress and now I feel like we are no further along than before,” he said. “It’s beyond exhausting.”

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