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Legislators may revisit law on medical cannabis at school

SANTA FE – Democratic lawmakers on Thursday slammed school districts and education officials for the way they have responded to a new law aimed at ensuring students can use medical marijuana on campus.

Several legislators say they will propose revisions to the law, making it clear that parents shouldn’t be the only ones allowed to administer medical cannabis at school.

School employees should be able to provide the medicine, too, they said, so parents aren’t forced to leave work abruptly or drive to the campus every time their child needs cannabis to address, say, a seizure or similar medical episode.

“I’m disappointed and dismayed at how this was implemented,” Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, said during a hearing at the Capitol.

Lawmakers’ frustration centers on a section of the new law that appears to give schools the option of allowing only parents – not school personnel – to administer medical cannabis.

Supporters of the legislation, Senate Bills 204 and 406, said they had expected that parents and school personnel would be allowed to handle the medicine, not just one group or the other.

“I think it’s fair to say we thought we had fixed the problem,” said Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, an Albuquerque Democrat and chairman of the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee.

But the state’s largest school districts, including Albuquerque and Rio Rancho, have opted to allow only parents to administer the medicine.

About 200 children and youngsters under 18 are enrolled in New Mexico’s medical cannabis program. Ten states allow medical marijuana in school settings, though their specific regulations vary widely.

Rep. Phelps Anderson, R-Roswell, said school districts face tough decisions about how to handle medical marijuana because it’s illegal at the federal level. Nurses, in particular, are subject to strict regulations on what they can do for patients, he said.

“It’s hard to fault a school board for saying, ‘We can’t order you to break the federal law,’ ” Anderson said.

Ortiz y Pino said he wasn’t sure whether a new legislative proposal would be crafted in time for consideration in the next legislative session, which begins in January.

Democrats hold majorities in both chambers of the Legislature.

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