Sometimes it’s hard to believe using marijuana for legitimate medical purposes has been legal in Washington for two decades. Since voters approved a landmark ballot initiative in 1998, broad acceptance of cannabis-based health treatments has moved at a painfully slow pace — and when we say “painfully,” we mean it literally.
Nowhere is this unresponsiveness more evident than in Washington public schools. Students with debilitating conditions such as seizures, cancer and intractable pain must leave school for a dose of their marijuana-infused oil or tincture, despite having a doctor-approved medical marijuana card. Some end up going home for the rest of the day, missing out on the full education they’re entitled to under the state constitution.
Individual schools can grant permission if they wish, but why should they have the discretion?
For at least three years, proposals to remedy this hardship have been introduced in Olympia, only to fall short.
Now the 2019 Legislature appears ready to help Washington children — an estimated 50 to 100 of them, at current count — for whom concentrated CBD products are effective and whose families want to bring them on campus.
House Bill 1095 would require all 295 Washington school districts to permit a student who qualifies under state medical marijuana law to ingest these products on school grounds, aboard a school bus or at a school-sponsored event. It could happen only at the request of a parent or guardian, and with their assistance; staff wouldn’t handle the products, nor would they be stored on campus.
Don’t worry, smokable marijuana still would be banned at school.
“Typically the parent would come in, put several drops on a cookie, or maybe in a cup of milk or juice, and the child would go back to class and the parent would leave campus,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Brian Blake, an Aberdeen Democrat, explained to a Senate committee recently.
Both the House and Senate have passed the bill with strong bipartisan support, though the versions aren’t identical. We hope the chambers will reconcile the differences and Gov. Jay Inslee will sign it into law.
The Senate added language that could be summed up as “don’t bite the hand that feeds.” It would suspend implementation of the new law if the federal government threatens to yank funding because of it.
While hardly a great display of states-rights valor, we can live with this amendment for as long as marijuana remains a banned federal substance.
Fortunately, now that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been put out to pasture, the Trump administration is less likely to penalize states that have legalized medical or recreational cannabis — or both, in the case of Washington and nine other states. New Attorney General William Barr has a more broadminded view on the issue, improving the outlook for federal marijuana reform.
Increasing social acceptance for CBD products is causing the market for them to boom, including in the Tacoma area; CBD is the cannabis derivative known for relieving discomfort, whereas THC is known for getting high.
To help sick kids access their CBD prescriptions at school wouldn’t be an audacious or groundbreaking move. Several states already allow it, and Colorado took it a step further. Former Gov. John Hickenlooper (now one of Inslee’s opponents for the Democratic presidential nomination) signed a bill last year letting school nurses in Colorado administer doses of medical marijuana if they’re comfortable.
In a few years maybe Washington legislators will be bold enough to add that provision, and the Washington Education Association will be gutsy enough to throw its union influence behind it. (The WEA is officially neutral on HB 1095.)
But for now, empowering parents to use Washington’s well-established medical marijuana law, and not thwarting them from protecting their children’s health and educational well being, is a good place to start.