Should Anne Arundel Co. students be given medical marijuana at school?

A Maryland law passed in 2020 allows public school students to receive medical marijuana treatments on school property if they have a prescription. At a meeting Wednesday night, members of the Anne Arundel County school board said the new law may put their employees at risk.

For students with a medical marijuana prescription, SB604 requires all public schools to provide for “the administration of medical cannabis during school hours, school-sponsored after-school activities, and on a school bus to students who are qualifying patients.”

Students under the age of 18 must have the medical marijuana administered by a legal caregiver, which can be a parent or another individual — such as a school nurse — authorized by their caregiver.

At the board’s meeting, Board attorney Jeanette Ortiz pointed out federal law still lists marijuana as an illegal drug. She also said SB604 doesn’t address legal liability hazards for school employees — such as nurses and other health staff — administering it to students on school property.

“Cannabis inclusive of medical cannabis is still considered a Schedule-A drug,” Cortiz said at the meeting. “Whether or not it should be is debatable, but it still is.”

Ortiz has previously pointed out straying from federal laws could put their funding at risk. In Anne Arundel’s 2020 opposition brief to SB604, she stated:

“By requiring the adoption of a written policy regarding the administration of medical cannabis, SB604 puts local school systems at risk of federal scrutiny and at risk of a potential loss of federal funding. Implementation of this bill would also be a violation of current State law which prohibits the manufacturing, distribution, dispensing, and possession of controlled dangerous substances (defined as “a drug or substance listed in Schedule I through Schedule V”) on a school bus or school property.”

Despite the board’s questions on legality, Ortiz says they must respect their oath to comply with state law — and implement the new medical marijuana policy in schools.

In the meantime, Anne Arundel School Board President Melissa Ellis says she will continue to ask Maryland’s attorney general for further guidance, or legal opinion, on how local boards can address the contradictions between state and federal statutes.

Joshua Barlow

Joshua Barlow is a writer, composer, and producer who has worked for CGTN, Atlantic Public Media, and National Public Radio. He lives in Northeast Washington, D.C., where he pays attention to developments in his neighborhood, economic issues, and social justice.

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