Brunswick policy would allow medical marijuana in schools

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BRUNSWICK — A draft policy to permit the use of medical marijuana in public schools will have a first reading by the School Board on Feb. 10.

The policy is a response to a change in state law last summer that prohibits schools from keeping minors who have prescriptions for medical marijuana from attending school.

Assistant Superintendent Pender Makin said queries have been made by parents with children at Brunswick High School and Coffin Elementary about how to handle a minor’s marijuana prescription.

But the schools are in a sticky situation, because possession of marijuana on a school campus is still illegal under federal law.

At a Jan. 28 meeting, the policy and planning committee worked from a draft policy outlined by the Maine School Management Association to try to come up with wording that complies with state and federal laws.

“The Board recognizes that there may be some students in the Brunswick School District who rely on the use of medical marijuana to manage a medical condition and who may be unable to effectively function at school without it,” the draft policy says.

It outlines a set of conditions that must be met to allow a minor to use medical marijuana in school.

Only the parent or primary guardian, not a school nurse, can administer the drug, and only in a non-smokeable form. The minor must have written certification for marijuana from a medical provider, and it must specify that the drug has to be administered during the school day, rather than before or after school.

The committee added language to expand the definition of a school day to include school-based activities.

The draft policy also says that the drug must be taken in a location pre-approved by the school principal, or someone designated by the principal.

The policy does not include any mention of students over the age of 18 with marijuana prescriptions.

In an informational presentation titled “Managing Medical Marijuana in Schools” by the Portland law firm Drummond Woodsum, attorneys Bruce Smith and Ann Chapman write that, under Maine law, “schools must allow eligible students to have non-smokeable marijuana administered by a primary caregiver in school under specific conditions.”

However, “schools are still marijuana-free zones for the most part.” Employees, students and visitors cannot possess the drug in school.

The only exception, the attorneys say, is for “possession by the primary caregiver to administer to a child under 18.”

The Auburn School Committee approved a policy last month allowing students to use medical marijuana under certain conditions, and Lewiston passed a similar policy in November.

Smith said in an interview Tuesday that “the law doesn’t explicitly say you have to have a policy.” But, he added, his firm recommends school districts get policies in place to outline the exact circumstances under which the use of medical marijuana by a minor is legal.

Marijuana can be prescribed in Maine to patients who have “debilitating medical conditions” such as cancer, glaucoma, HIV, or Crohn’s Disease.

Maine is estimated to have more than 1,700 registered patients with prescriptions for marijuana, according to a voluntary registry reported by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, an advocacy group.

Makin, the assistant superintendent, said she could not provide specific information about students who have medical marijuana prescriptions in Brunswick.

But, she said, the “conditions exist … (that) we are going to face this imminently.”

Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or wwuthmann@theforecaster.net. Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.

Grower Sean Wyatt trims marijuana plants at his Yarmouth primary caregiver facility in 2014.

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Brunswick/Harpswell reporter for The Forecaster. Bowdoin College grad, San Francisco Bay Area native. Follow for municipal, school, community, and environmental news from the Midcoast.
  • Chew H Bird

    Oh the irony… When I was in high school there were smoking areas for students and I could purchase cigarettes at the school store. Marijuana, in any form and for any reason was grounds for dismissal. Now, regardless of Federal law (which in my opinion is ridiculous), we are trying to make exceptions for marijuana use (prescribed)?

    Policies and laws are great at administering general guidelines and extremely poor (in general) at covering all exceptions. Policies and laws are great in the same way a computer can often automate repetitive tasks except computers are often slow in “one off” situations. There are times when a piece of paper and a writing instrument are a better solution than a spreadsheet and a flat screen. There are also times when, (since marijuana needs to be taken in ways other than smoking) simply turning a blind eye to an actual situation may be the best way to deal with a few “exceptions”.

    Intentionally creating policies that may be contrary to Federal funding requirements is, in my uneducated opinion, a potential problem that may be better off undocumented. Since when is a public entity such as a school entitled to know exactly what medications are being taken by students? Are schools required to abide by medical privacy laws?

    I am just questioning the resources utilized to create an official policy that deals with (most likely) a small number of students who should have the right (in conjunction with the family and doctor), to use prescribed medication without making their private medical situation public knowledge.

  • jack bauer

    The opening of Pandora’s box.