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APS medical pot directive: Parents must dose kids at school

Parents have urged lawmakers to allow their children to use medical cannabis, such as the oil above, at schools. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque Public Schools discussed a new procedural directive on Wednesday to outline how schools should handle medical cannabis – a directive that requires parents or the legal guardian to administer the medicine and does not allow it to be stored at school.

The guidance addresses students who are in the state medical cannabis program for serious health issues, such as seizures.

Late last month, the state Public Education Department finalized a rule that required districts to create policies for storing and administering medical cannabis on campus, following Senate bills signed in April that allowed the drug to be on school grounds.

Both the law and the rule gave districts discretion on whether they will designate school personnel to administer medical cannabis.

APS has taken the primary caregiver-only option when it comes to dosing kids.

Heather Dahl, policy analyst and legislative liaison for APS, said the policy’s intent is for parents to be the key person for storage and administration of medical cannabis.

Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, who cosponsored the medical marijuana in schools bill, says he wants to revisit language that leaves it up to districts on whether school staff administers this medicine.

Board members Candelaria Patterson and Elizabeth Armijo also raised concerns about parents having to drive to school and give kids this medicine.

Armijo noted that legislation allows districts to designate school employees, yet APS is choosing not to, saying she thinks it’s a burden to the primary caregiver to have to travel on campus and dose their kid, especially during the workday.

The board member said she would like to “keep dialogue open” about it.

Dahl said the procedural directive as written protects school employees.

“This is using the parent option rather than designating a school employee just because we can’t require employees to be involved in administration of medical cannabis for students who are not their own children,” she said.

Dahl said the idea is to get more information before requiring school staff to deal with medical cannabis.

“Given capacity at schools, given the unknown quantity of what the demand is, this seems like a nice way to begin inviting parents onto campuses, and administering and writing treatment plans, and gathering the data that we need to potentially go forward and see if there is more we can do within the law,” Dahl told board members.

She noted that procedural directives can be readdressed and revised.

Board members also told Dahl to take a second look at a section in the directive that bars students from driving on school property as that was not in the law or PED rule.

Candelaria, the state senator, said the intent of Senate bill was to create “shared responsibility” between parents and districts to ensure kids are taken care of, but he doesn’t see APS doing that.

“What I find continuously disappointing about APS’ response to this issue is that it is very clear to me they do not wish to – or at least the district administration does not want to – play that role,” he said.

He added that he thinks having a school staff member give this medicine is critical to ensure that students can attend school and he ultimately does not think that should be discretionary to the district.

However, the Senate bill didn’t spell that out.

Candelaria said he is willing to sponsor a bill that would take the option away from districts. He also told the Journal that he will ask to hold a legislative hearing on the issue.

Kristine Meurer, executive director of student, family, and community supports division, said that APS has had one request to take this medicine on school grounds but that the family decided to use a different medicine.