Medical marijuana in Florida was approved by Governor Rick Scott last month and now school districts statewide are struggling with one specific requirement of the legislation. Under the law, children with certain ailments can use cannabis while at school and the districts are obligated to make it available to students as needed.
While medical marijuana for children is legal in Florida, the schools are resistant to creating cannabis-use policy as the language used in the law is ambiguous and inconsistent. The law requires schools to store and manage cannabis like other medications but does not provide a clear definition as to who can administer it to students.
Only an authorized caregiver can give medical marijuana to a child, yet the law does not afford school employees the power to act as a caregiver. Mitch Teitelbaum, an attorney for the Manatee County School District, says making schools provide the drug to students makes no sense when the school has no legal power to do so.
"The district is compelled to adhere to all state and federal laws," said Teitelbaum, as reported by the Bradenton Herald. "But how do we do so with such inconsistency?"
The original medical cannabis law approved by Florida voters in November did not contain the school requirement provision, but was later modified to include it. This added amendment is causing both confusion and controversy to the new marijuana law.
Most Florida school districts turn to consulting firm NEOLA for help creating school policy. Currently, the company is reviewing the law and deciding how to move forward before making any recommendations to district officials.
According to NEOLA CEO Dick Clapp, Florida's medical marijuana law puts "schools in a real tough spot" by making them create a policy that potentially opens them up to lawsuits. Once one district comes up with solid guidelines regulating how cannabis will be given to students, other districts are likely to follow. However, Clapp says that isn't likely to happen before the start of the 2017-18 school year.
As of now, not many children are affected by the medical marijuana law in Florida. Yet, the families that are impacted want the state's school districts or the Florida Department of Education to make a decision.
"The number of people that will be impacted will be a small number, but they are in dire situations, so it is a tough human-relations thing," Clapp said, per the report by the Bradenton Herald. "I don't know what we do about that."
It is likely the Florida school districts with the highest number of students will act first to create medical marijuana guidelines. For now, the most probable scenario will be treating medical cannabis like any other prescription medication.
The medical marijuana law in Florida allows children with severe epilepsy, cancer, and other qualifying conditions to be treated with cannabis oil, capsules, and edibles. Due to federal restrictions regarding prescribing weed for medical purposes, marijuana treatment is only available by recommendation from state-approved physicians to Florida patients.
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