Allow medical cannabis at school

Recently, we saw mothers unite at the Roundhouse to advocate for allowing medical cannabis in schools. In emotional pleas, both mothers told the lawmakers how medical cannabis is the only medication that works. They both say it’s what keeps their children alive. On Oct. 25, they received support from the Legislative Human Health and Services interim committee, which is pushing for new legislation.

We’ve come a long way since medical cannabis history started in New Mexico in 1978, after public hearings the Legislature enacted H.B. 329, the nation’s first law recognizing the medical value of cannabis.

Safe access to medical cannabis for those patients who do benefit most still are faced with the need to overcome political, social and legal barriers with advocacy by creating policies that improve safe access to medical cannabis for patients — and that means at school, too.

In New Mexico, families are unjustly being denied the right to allow their kids to use medical cannabis while at school. These two courageous mothers are fearlessly advocating for patients’ rights and safe access for the beneficial use of medical cannabis in schools, which is also the very fundamental basis for New Mexico’s medical cannabis law.

“Section 2. PURPOSE OF ACT.—The purpose of the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act is to allow the beneficial use of medical cannabis in a regulated system for alleviating symptoms caused by debilitating medical conditions and their medical treatments.”

These children, and any student for that matter, in our state’s medical cannabis program should be treated just like every other child who attends public schools in our state and uses medicine at school. The use of medical cannabis and safe access to it at school for these two students are medical necessities.

“Medically necessary” is defined as “health care services or supplies needed to prevent, diagnose or treat an illness, injury, condition, disease or its symptoms and that meet accepted standards of medicine.” Medical necessity is a U.S. legal doctrine, related to activities that may be justified as reasonable, necessary and/or appropriate, based on evidence-based clinical standards of care.

Currently there are six other states with comprehensive medical cannabis programs (New Jersey, Maine, Washington, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Illinois) that have successfully set forth rules and regulations for allowing school-age children to have safe access to medical cannabis while attending public schools. No school has ever lost any federal funding for allowing safe access to medical cannabis at school, nor has there been any problems.

Schools already allow children to use all kinds of psychotropic medications — from Ritalin to opioid painkillers — when prescribed by a physician. But they tend to take a much harder stance on medical cannabis — despite the fact it has been scientifically proven to be safer than psychotropic medications.

Today the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program has more than 60,000 registered participants, many who are pediatric patients, with 35 licensed (nonprofit) producers growing 14,550 medical cannabis plants, as the program surpasses its 10th year. The Medical Cannabis Program was created in 2007 as the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, under chapter 210 Senate Bill 523.

The purpose of this act is to allow the beneficial use of medical cannabis in a regulated system for alleviating symptoms caused by debilitating medical conditions and their medical treatments. The purpose of the act must be followed, and we must stop denying these children the right to attend public school.

Jason Barker is a Safe Access New Mexico organizer and a medical cannabis patient. He lives in Albuquerque.