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Florida Schools’ Differing Policies on Medical Marijuana Leave Parents in Limbo
Amid a lack of direction from the state, Florida schools have all created their own policies about whether students should have access to their medical cannabis on campus.
Photo by PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou via Getty Images
Trapped between a state medical marijuana program approved by a majority of voters and the federal ban on all cannabis products, Florida schools are forced to find creative ways to allow their students to medicate without breaking the law, according to an in-depth report from USA Today-Florida.
When Florida legalized medical cannabis in 2016, its program became a part of the state’s constitution. But the voter-approved initiative exempted Florida schools from having to accommodate students who use medicinal cannabis while state statutes that govern schools expect each district to determine its own guidelines.
As a result, neither the state Attorney General’s office nor the Departments of Health and Education have provided any guidance, leaving many students and their parents to negotiate with school administrators.
The USA Today-Florida report identified seven districts in which no policy has been established to allow state-licensed students to access their medical cannabis while on campus. Even at Florida schools which try to accommodate their students’ needs, parents have had to get creative.
This is a situation that’s familiar to parents across the country. While 29 states have legalized medical cannabis, only three currently require that schools allow students to take marijuana medicine on campus.
“It may take a bit of creativity and flexibility between parents and school districts to find a solution to the situation,” attorney for Manatee County schools, Mitchell Teitelbaum, told USA Today-Florida.
In Palm Beach County, for example, the Sun Sentinel reports that school nurses have been given permission to administer medical cannabis to students as the nurses are county health officials and technically not employed by the schools.
In other counties, both parents and principals have had to do more maneuvering. In Escambia County, for example, parents must go to the nurse’s office to administer medical marijuana to their children and then take the medicine home with them. According to a report from the Pensacola News Journal, school officials came up with this policy because they didn’t want to store medical marijuana on campus.
Meanwhile in Broward County, the principal of each school has been given the authority to determine how and where medical cannabis will be administered to students so long as it is in the form of an edible, oil or cream and the parent of the child submits a formal request to the school 48 hours before administering the medicine.
Part of the hesitation from administrators at Florida schools comes from the federal ban on cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act. That ban prevents students from medicating on campus because much of the federal funding that schools receive is contingent on those schools remaining drug-free.
Under the previous administration, some school officials said that they had more relaxed policies, but with Jeff Sessions in charge of the Department of Justice, they fear that the federal government would be more likely to penalize them.
Twenty-nine states have legal weed, but only three allow it at schools for medical reasons.
The bill would allow students, ranging from those in kindergarten to 12th grade to consume non-smokable medical marijuana on school property.
Only New Jersey, Colorado, and Maine require schools to support students who need medical cannabis.