DENVER (CN) – A bill that would allow school nurses to administer medical marijuana to students passed the Colorado House 47-17 on Thursday.
The bill is sponsored by state Sen. Irene Aguilar, a Democrat, and Republican state Rep. Dylan Roberts.
Medical marijuana is one of few issues that enjoys bipartisan support, according to a recent Pew Research poll that found 6 in 10 Americans support its use. Whether to allow cannabis into the classroom, however, has been a subject of debate.
“I was pleased that it passed. Most school nurses knew it would be passed so they came to me yesterday,” Aguilar said.
Currently, nurses administer medication according to doctors’ orders, and voiced concern that the same standard be maintained for medical marijuana.
Patty Rojec, president-elect of the Colorado Association of School Nurses, is concerned that without direction from the state board of nursing and physicians, school nurses may be put in a gray area forced to choose between families’ wishes and the direction of the medical community.
“There is no precedent for that, nurses don’t get to choose,” Rojec said. “We’re afraid this bill puts us in a difficult position. Our scope of practice needs to change if this bill is to work. Physicians’ scope of practice needs to change.”
In Colorado, doctors may recommend patients use medical marijuana, but they do not write a prescription for it.
Many marijuana advocates consider this bill another step toward making its use a normal part of life.
“As the novelty of medical cannabis wears off, it is to be expected that further legal and regulatory changes such as this will be proposed with the goal of treating cannabis in a manner that is similar to other conventional medical treatments,” said Paul Armentano, deputy director for cannabis advocacy group NORML.
Cannabis is currently banned by federal law as a Schedule I substance, meaning the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency considers it highly addictive and of no medical value.
But medical marijuana has become an increasingly popular way to address a variety of symptoms from pain to insomnia and is used to treat epilepsy and cancer.
To date, 28 states have approved some kind of medical marijuana program and eight have legalized the substance for recreational use.
Colorado’s bill builds on Jack’s Law, which allowed for primary caregivers to bring medical marijuana to students at school. Fifteen-year-old Jack Splitt suffered from dystonia, which causes agonizing and involuntary muscles contractions. Before his untimely death, Splitt and his mother Stacey Linn were strong advocates for patients’ right to use medical cannabis.
Parents with children who are taking medical marijuana for debilitating health conditions already have enough to worry about without making an extra trip to the school, noted Aguilar. This bill provides protection to school nurses who are allowed to give children prescribed medication.
“Too many people, when they think of medical marijuana, they think of children smoking it, and it is usually administered in the form of CBD oil,” Aguilar noted.
Smoking marijuana on school property, on buses or at events remains prohibited, as does students’ possession of it.
The bill heads next to the state Senate for approval.
The U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment on the matter.