SAD 61 wrestles with medical marijuana policy

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Phil Shane never thought he would see the day when how to administer medical marijuana at school would become a topic of discussion.

“For 24 years, I’ve been on this board,” the Casco director said at a recent SAD 61 board workshop. “Why do we have to deal with it?”

Superintendent of Schools Al Smith simply answered, “We do.”

As state officials continue to craft regulations regarding recreational use of marijuana following last November’s vote, schools also find themselves in somewhat uncharted territory regarding the issue.

Smith found that some school districts — such as Gray-New Gloucester and Poland — have yet to enact a policy addressing medical marijuana use by students, while others have either very detailed or very short statements. Directors looked over policies in place at SAD 17 (Oxford Hills), as well as SAD 55 and 72.

One topic some schools avoided was how to address students ages 18 and older who, as adults, now have the right to use marijuana on a recreational basis.

Smith preferred Gorham’s version because it does include language addressing the “of age” student. It reads, “…Students 18 years of age and older may not possess or use medical marijuana at school.”

Medical marijuana is being prescribed for a variety of conditions, including to children, which often take the drug in the form of gummie bears and lollipops, SAD 61 Board Chairman Janice Barter noted.

When asked whether SAD 61 has students who have been prescribed medical marijuana, Superintendent Smith declined comment.

The Gorham policy opens with the following statement, “The School Committee recognizes that there may be some students in the Gorham schools who rely on the use of medical marijuana to manage a medical condition and who may not be unable to effectively function at school without it.”

Key elements of the policy include:

  • A primary “caregiver” may possess and administer marijuana in a nonsmokable form on the grounds of the primary or secondary school in which a minor qualifying patient is enrolled. No student may possess medical marijuana on school grounds.

The “caregiver” must be an adult.

The minor was to have a current, written certification for the medical use of marijuana from a medical provider.

  • The caregiver must provide proof that the student needs to have the drug administered during the school day, as opposed to before or after school.
  • Medical marijuana must be in a nonsmokable form.
  • The student may not possess medical marijuana at any time or place except during the time of its consumption, at the designated location, and under the supervision of the caregiver.
  • Only the primary caregiver may administer medical marijuana. It cannot be done by or delegated to a school employee or any other person than the primary caregiver.
  • Medical marijuana may be administered only at the principal’s office (SAD 61 directors thought the place could also be the nurse’s office).
  • A student who holds written certification for the medical use of marijuana may not be excluded (suspended or expelled) from school because he/she requires medical marijuana to attend school.

Naples Director Beth Chaplin suggested that SAD 61 add language that the “first original dose” of medical marijuana received by a minor patient should not be administered at school.

With students ages 18 or older, there is the chance that a smokable form of medical marijuana could be prescribed. If this is the case, again, the district would require that the student be given the medical marijuana by a primary caregiver. However, the caregiver would need to take the student off of school grounds to allow him/her to smoke.

Directors were concerned about students returning to school “smelling like marijuana” and heading “back to class high.”

Yet, Casco Director Stan Buchanan pointed out that a number of students are required to take medication during the school day. In the case of medical marijuana, “it is no different than other medication given,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan felt the school board needs more time to research the issue and become more educated.

While Smith understands the board’s desire to be thorough, he pointed out the issue can’t be put on the back burner.

“This policy should have been put in place a year ago,” he said.

Like all policies, Smith noted the medical marijuana policy could be revised if needed. To keep the ball rolling on the issue, Smith and a committee consisting of directors and others interested in the matter, will collect additional information and bring a more defined policy back to the school board for review.

Please follow and like us: