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Colorado lawmakers wrangle over school nurses administering medical marijuana

April 12, 2018 Updated: April 12, 2018 at 9:52 pm
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Colorado lawmakers wrangle over school nurses administering medical marijuana (Photo via Getty Images)

A bill that would allow school nurses to administer medical marijuana got preliminary approval in the Colorado House Wednesday, but the debate exposed concerns that might imperil it if it reaches the state Senate.

House Bill 1286 passed on a voice vote in the lower chamber but will still need to get a majority in a recorded vote in the next few days, before moving the Senate to start over.

The bill makes it an option for schools or school districts to administer medical marijuana. It's a follow up to Jack's Law, which the General Assembly passed in 2016 to allow children prescribed the drug to use it at school, though it requires a parent or guardian to dispense it.

Jack Splitt, the teenager from Lakewood who is the namesake of the law, died in August 2016. He had cerebral palsy that called severe muscle contractions that benefit from the use of med

That's not practical for working families, said Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Roberts, the bill's sponsor.

He's calling the legislation Quintin's Law for 9-year-old Quintin Lovato of Gypsum. The third-grader has Tourette Syndrome and epilepsy that's controlled by three drops of cannabis oil under his tongue each day.

Quintin is one of five children to two working parents. If he doesn't have his medication, he gets sick, which makes it hard to attend school, Roberts said on the House floor Wednesday.

If the bill becomes law, "he can go to school as normally as possible and learn and be a 9-year-old kid," Roberts said. "But he needs that dose around the middle of the day."

Rep. Jim Wilson, R-Salida, a former school principal and superintendent, said that even though nurses and schools could decide whether to participate, in practice they would be forced to by if parents know it's an option and demands it.

Several opponents noted that marijuana, though legal in Colorado, is still illegal on the federal level, which puts schools and employees in a legally precarious situation, if there is a federal law enforcement crackdown.

Wilson said the bill should, instead, allow school nurses to keep and provide the medicine in emergencies, which would be covered by their oath as a medical practitioner.

"We're still dealing with a substance that's not a ho-hum, regular medication as every other medication (is), according to what the federal government has asked," he said of marijuana.

That line of argument riled up Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton.

"Is that what we're going to do? To wait for an emergency to occur," said the civil rights lawyer who is running for attorney general. "This is a medicine that could be applied prior to an emergency, a medicine that's been prescribed by a doctor, just like many other medications that nurses are allowed to dispense at school.

"We're actually going to wait for a child to have a seizure just because it has marijuana in it?"

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