Despite change in state law, Colorado districts still won't allow medical cannabis on campus

JEFFERSON CO., Colo. - Despite a new law that says schools can allow some forms of medical cannabis on campus, no major district in Colorado is changing policy.

'Jack's Amendment' was inspired by a 7NEWS story about Jack Splitt, a Jefferson County student who uses a cannabis patch and oils for severe cerebral palsy. When his school found out his private nurse was giving him cannabis at school, administrators said it couldn't happen on their grounds.

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Jack's situation prompted Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, to pass a law that allows a parent or caregiver to give a student cannabis patches and oil at school, but gives districts discretion on adopting such a policy.

Jack's mother, Stacey Linn, said her joy when the governor signed the law in the spring has been replaced by anger.

"To have a school take that away, when we worked so hard to allow it, is heartbreaking," Linn said.

Jefferson County's superintendent refused an interview with 7NEWS, but spokeswoman Michelle Lyng said the district feared losing federal funding. It's a sentiment echoed by other districts as well.

Denver, Aurora, Douglas County, Pueblo City, Colorado Springs District 11, Cherry Creek, Boulder Valley, Adams 12 Five Star, Poudre and Falcon schools said they won't change current policy banning all types of marijuana on school grounds.

"I think our concern would be being in violation of federal law," said Boulder Valley superintendent Dr. Bruce Messinger. "I don’t think there's any compelling reason to change our position at this time."

He said parents can take students away from campus if cannabis medication is necessary during the school day.

"That seems to work fine for our students and our families," he said. "(There's) probably just not a need to push across that line."

Linn said she feels her son's right to an education is in jeopardy because taking him away from school disrupts his classes and ability to learn.

"Children with special needs are by federal law entitled to have all the supports they need to access their education in the least restrictive environment," Linn said. "So when you start saying, 'You can't take your medicine at school,' you're restricting the environment."

Attorney and disabilities advocate Carrie Ann Lucas said schools may be violating the Individuals With Disabilities Act by refusing to allow cannabis medications.

"It's discriminatory against those students," Lucas said. "Those parents can start filing discrimination complaints with the state Office of Civil Rights."

Lucas acknowledged it could be a tough fight, as this area of the law regarding marijuana is still unsettled.

Rep. Singer said if no resolution is reached before the end of the year, he will attempt to pass a bill that would force the hand of schools.

"When I passed Jack's Amendment, parents along with their sick and dying children came to the Capitol pleading for the ability to go to school like any other child," Singer said. "I promised to never turn my back on them.  If we cannot figure out a reasonable accommodation for children with disabilities before January, I will introduce a bill to ensure that no child has to choose between taking their medicine or going to school."

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