Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a bill that paves the way for parents in some California school districts to bring medical cannabis to their students at K-12 campuses, breaking with former Gov. Jerry Brown, who had vetoed similar legislation last year.
The measure, signed late Wednesday, allows medical cannabis that is not in smoking or vaping form to be administered to students by parents on campus if their school board has approved a policy providing the access.
Newsom, the leading proponent of the 2016 recreational pot legalization initiative, Proposition 64, overruled the objections of law enforcement groups and signed the measure without comment.
Brown had said in a veto message that he was “concerned about the exposure of marijuana on youth” and “dubious of its use for youth for all ailments.”
However, Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) said his bill was vital for helping the hundreds of students suffering from illnesses, including epilepsy, for which medical cannabis oils, creams and pills can help.
Hill said the bill was aimed at students “for whom medicinal cannabis is the only medication that works — so they can take their dose at school and then get on with their studies, without being removed from campus and without disrupting their educational experience or that of their classmates.”
Parents must obtain a doctor’s recommendation to administer the cannabis products on campus, he said.
But Scott Chipman of the group Americans Against Legalizing Marijuana called the bill an unnecessary “stunt,” noting the Food and Drug Administration has approved a drug for epilepsy that is taken in the morning and evening.
“There is absolutely no reason they can’t get their dosage out of school hours,” Chipman said.
Los Angeles Unified School District board member Jackie Goldberg said Thursday that she would support allowing parents to provide medical cannabis to their kids on campus and will ask the district’s health officials for a recommendation on a possible policy.
“I think it ought to be available as a need if the student’s family gets a prescription or a recommendation from a medical doctor for using it because it seems to have help for some people, particularly for epilepsy and a few other things,” said Goldberg, who noted the medication allowed by the bill is not the ingredient of cannabis that produces a “high.”
The new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, was dubbed JoJo’s Act by Hill in reference to a San Francisco Bay Area teenager with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy. The boy’s mother, Karina Garcia, testified to lawmakers that JoJo takes medicinal cannabis tinctures to prevent debilitating seizures that had prevented him from attending school.
“By signing JoJo’s Act, Gov. Newsom has lifted barriers for students with severe medical disabilities for whom medicinal cannabis is the only medication that works,” Hill said Thursday.
Most Republican lawmakers opposed the bill, worrying that it would lead to drug abuse. Also opposing the bill was the California Police Chiefs Assn., which said one of its top priorities “is to prevent any youth under the age of 21 from accessing all types of cannabis products.”
Until now, possession and use of medical marijuana was not permitted within 1,000 feet of a school, requiring parents to take their children off campus for administration of daily doses.
If a school district’s board of trustees agrees, parents and guardians would check in when arriving on campus to administer the medicinal cannabis to the student, and must not expose other students to the products.
California follows eight other states, including Washington and Florida, in allowing medical pot to be used on K-12 campuses.