Hemp or pot: What’s the difference?
Tri-City schools are opening their doors to medical marijuana.
School boards across the state are putting rules in place after a new state law that allows parents to administer the drug to children in need went into effect during the summer.
The state law, which allowed “medical marijuana” in schools, saw widespread bipartisan support in the House and Senate this spring.
While marijuana was in the title of the bill, it’s primary sponsor, Rep. Brian Blake, D-Olympia, said the change is aimed at allowing cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD, to be used in school. The drug is normally sold as an oil that is mixed with food or drink.
While not as well known as THC, CBD is the second-most prevalent active ingredient in cannabis, and has found its way into drug trials, grocery stores and health food stores.
There has been a wide variety of claims about CBD as an effective treatment for many medical conditions, but perhaps the strongest evidence shows it is an effective way to treat some of the most severe forms of childhood epilepsy, according to a Harvard Medical School website.
The Harvard paper said CBD doesn’t cause a “high” and isn’t addictive.
While every state has signed off on CBD to varying degrees, the federal government’s position is less clear. The Food and Drug Administration started allowing research on the chemical in 2015, and a 2018 Farm Bill allowed farmers to grow hemp, but only if the plant is largely free of THC.
Allowing children to participate in education
For Blake and other advocates, the issue is simple. Without CBD treatment, children with these forms of epilepsy would not be able to participate in school.
The state lawmaker was motivated by the story of a constituent’s daughter. The girl, known as Ducky, only found relief from her seizures using the CBD oil.
“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Blake said in a new release as his bill moved through the House. “We can help these kids so they can have the same opportunity to learn and enjoy school as any other Washington student.”
Blake and the state school superintendent’s office signed off on the legislation, saying it strikes a balance between letting children take the medication and protecting the schools in the event federal officials change their position.
The law requires the districts to find places where parents can administer “marijuana-infused products.” Parents have to show that a doctor prescribed it.
The districts are also required to set aside places where a parent can administer it safely.
While the law protects teachers and administrators from any legal action from the state, it does not say anything about federal retribution. If the federal government threatens to pull money away from the districts, the state superintendent and school districts are required to stop allowing it.
School districts in the Tri-Cities
Kennewick was the first district to look at changing its policies around the new law. The specifics about where parents will go to administer the drug and other procedures are still being worked out.
The basics are in place, though, and it will allow parents to administer CBD while their child is at school, on the bus or participating in a school-sponsored activity.
It was the ambiguity around the federal response that concerned school board member Heather Kintzley, according to reports. A practicing attorney, she has previously voiced concerns about measures that may violate the law.
Kintzley was the only board member to vote against the policy during it’s first reading on Wednesday.
Pasco is likely next to take up the issue. The district plans to look at revising the student medication policy on Sept. 24, said Shane Edinger, the district’s director of public affairs. It will come back at the next meeting for a final vote.
It’s unknown when Richland will address the issue, but Communication Director Ty Beaver said the district does plan to revise the policy. It isn’t stopping students from taking the medication.
“Currently, students may use medical marijuana at school, though it must be administered by their parent or guardian, may not be stored on campus and cannot be administered or handled by school staff,” he said.