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Legislature Approves Greenwald & Lampitt Bill to Ensure Students with Debilitating Illnesses & Disabilities are Not Denied Medical Marijuana Relief while at School
The Senate granted final legislative approval on Monday to a bill sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald and Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt to ensure that students with debilitating illnesses and disabilities who participate in the state's medical marijuana program are not denied medicinal relief while at school or attending school functions.
New Jersey's medical marijuana law does not currently authorize the use of medical marijuana in schools or day programs serving developmentally disabled adults. In the absence of a state law on the subject, several school districts have specifically prohibited the use or administration of medical marijuana on school grounds.
"We're talking about some of the state's most severely disabled students, some of whom suffer life threatening seizures and medical marijuana is the only thing that has helped ease their condition," said Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington). "We should be working with these families, not hindering relief. This change will lend more compassion to our program and help serve those who need it most."
In recent months, parents of students with severe seizure disorders have appealed this policy, arguing that it disrupts their children's school attendance and could jeopardize their children's overall health. In one case, a student is now attending school on a part-time basis so that the marijuana, which has dramatically reduced the frequency of the student's seizures, can be administered mid-day. The Administrative Law Judge presiding over the parents' appeal found in favor of the schools, however the decision is currently under appeal.
"Eliminating ambiguities in our current law will help ease the concerns of school districts who might fear liability," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). "This simple change in the law will help parents ensure that their children do not suffer throughout the day when relief is so near at hand."
The bill (A-4587), approved by a vote of 59-9-9, would authorize parents, guardians or primary caregivers, to administer medical marijuana on school grounds, on a school bus, or at a school sponsored activity, provided it is administered in a non-smokable form in a location designated by the school.
Specifically, the bill would require boards of education, chief school administrators of non-public schools, and chief administrators of facilities providing services to persons with developmental disabilities to adopt a policy authorizing parents, guardians, and primary caregivers to administer medical marijuana to qualifying patients under certain circumstances.
In the case of a public or non-public school, parents, guardians, and primary caregivers would be authorized to administer medical marijuana to a student in a non-smokable form while the student is on school grounds, aboard a school bus, or attending a school-sponsored event, provided the administration is consistent with a school policy that:
1) requires the student to be authorized to engage in the medical use of marijuana pursuant to the "Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act" and the parent, guardian, or primary caregiver to be authorized to assist the student with the medical use of medical marijuana;
2) establishes protocols for verifying the registration status and ongoing authorization concerning the medical use of marijuana for the student and the parent, guardian, or primary caregiver;
3) expressly authorizes parents, guardians, and primary caregivers to administer medical marijuana to the student while the student is on school grounds, aboard a school bus, or attending a school-sponsored event;
4) identifies locations on school grounds where medical marijuana may be administered; and
5) prohibits the administration of medical marijuana by smoking or other form of inhalation.
In the case of facilities providing services to individuals with developmental disabilities, the chief administrator of the facility would be required to develop a policy authorizing a parent, guardian, or primary caregiver to administer medical marijuana to a qualifying patient who is receiving services at the facility along the lines of the same guidelines that public and non-public schools must follow.
Nothing in the bill would permit medical marijuana to be smoked in a place where smoking is prohibited pursuant to N.J.S.2C:33-13.
The bill provides that conduct authorized under its provisions falls within the provisions of N.J.S.2C:35-18 and section 6 of P.L.2009, c.307 (C.24:6I-6) that provide immunity from civil and criminal liability and professional disciplinary action for persons acting in accordance with the "Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act."
The bill now heads to the governor's desk.
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