Legalized Medical Marijuana Affects RSD Health Policy

When Abby Grace, senior, suffered an injury her sophomore year to her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the tissue within the knee connecting the thigh bone and shinbone she was prescribed painkillers to deal with the aftermath of the surgery. 

“The surgery happened over Spring Break, so I didn’t have to worry about being at school the week and a half afterwards,” Grace said. “I only really needed to go to the nurse to get a key for the elevator.”

However, had Grace been present at school directly following her surgery, recovery would have looked very different. Because consuming her prescribed painkillers would still be described as being under the influence, what’s allowed at school becomes a larger point of contention. 

Amy Wehr, supervisor of Wellness and Health Services, said a similar gray area has come to the forefront with the state legalization of medical marijuana in 2018.

“Marijuana is still a class one narcotic and not legal at the federal level,” Wehr said. “So, as a district, students cannot smoke marijuana or consume cannabidiol (CBD) pills while on campus.”

As of right now, students with a doctor’s suggestion to use any variation of medical marijuana must be taken off campus by a parent or guardian to consume the drug and then come back to school.

Despite state legalization, the lack of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval is what Wehr said prevents school nurses from administering medical marijuana, along with the mandate that nurses cannot break state or federal law. For example, nurses cannot administer different essential oils due to the lack of FDA approval deeming it a ‘legitimate’ medication either.

As a result of the lack of FDA approval as a medication, students cannot be prescribed medical marijuana. In order for students to be able to leave campus and use the drug under parental supervision, Wehr said the student must have a doctor’s note suggesting medical marijuana would aid a specific issue such as chronic pain or anxiety.

Marijuana is still a class one narcotic and not legal at the federal level.”

— Amy Wehr

“Issues like that don’t need medication to be administered at school at a given time everyday,” Wehr said. “If suggested by a doctor, students and parents can come up with a solution to consume the drug at home.”

Wehr said she doesn’t think the legalization and its impact on students will be as prominent until usage is more widespread, but the legalization did cause better outlined protocol to be set up for students to be able to consume the medication off school grounds and return to school.

Principal Dr. Steve Hankins said MHS has no current cases of this situation, but expects this issue to become a topic of larger discussion as medical marijuana continues to be legalized throughout the country.

“It’s a special case, because marijuana is still under such a constraining category of drug within federal law, and is used recreationally, but is now considered a legitimate medicine,” Dr. Hankins said. “But whether you agree with it or not, the conversation will continue to open up as it continues to become more commonplace.”

Dr. Hankins said, for right now, administrators will follow the  district policy to have a student consume off campus with a parent, with the permission of a doctor’s note. However, he said if increased prevalence causes more measures to be taken or it becomes necessary for nurses to reconsider policy, because nursing licenses supercede district policy, things could change.

“I don’t anticipate that happening so soon though,” Dr. Hankins said. “Medical marijuana is still very new and we don’t know all the side effects yet.”