Changes in marijuana use leave district leaders in bind

Health risks, decriminalization and increased medical use of marijuana create quandaries for school administrators
By: | August 30, 2019
gettyimages.com: Bulat Silvia

With marijuana legal to varying extents in 33 states and the District of Columbia, school leaders are increasingly finding themselves walking a fine line in how to handle pot-related issues among students.

Last week, the U.S. surgeon general cautioned that marijuana use “carries more risk than ever,” especially for youths,  The Washington Post and other news outlets reported. Of particular concern is the increased potency of professionally grown pot: the concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, can be as high as 90% in edible products, the Post reported.

In Colorado, where marijuana use has been legal since 2014, a recent study found no increase in the percentage of students reporting that they used pot in the past 30 days. However, there has been a significant change in how Colorado’s high school students use the drug, according to a recent report in MedPage Today. While smoking continued to be the most common mode, its popularity fell while the popularity of edible cannabis and vaping rose dramatically from 2015 to 2017, MedPage reported.


Resource: When Medical Marijuana Meets School Drug Policy


In all states where marijuana is legal you have to be 21 to buy it legally, but pot has nevertheless become more accessible to teens than ever—and some states and municipalities have decriminalized cannibas possession. That leaves school officials grappling with how to handle instances when students are found with it. In Gwinnett County Public Schools in Georgia, for instance, the district announced last month that school police will no longer arrest students on misdemeanor marijuana charges, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported.

The use of medical marijuana by schoolchildren is another issue district administrators face. Last week, the California Assembly approved a bill that lets school boards decide whether parents can administer medical marijuana on school campuses, TV station KABC reported. Current state law prevents marijuana within 1,000 feet of school campuses, meaning children authorized to use medical marijuana have to go off campus to get their medication.


Read: Medical marijuana pushes boundaries in school district policies


When considering medical marijuana use on school grounds district leaders should be prepared for debate and discussion, DA wrote in an article last year. In Maine, where districts are authorized by state law to set policies for in-school medical marijuana use, the Five Town Central School District set a policy prohibiting students with prescriptions from possessing the drug. A primary caregiver can administer it in a nonsmokable form in the school administrator’s office. Once a parent gives a dose, they are required to take the rest home.

“Schools are constantly having these places where conflicts arise between the standards and expectations in a school when they are much different than those within the state, the nation or even the family unit,” said Maria Libby, the superintendent of district.


Read: Marijuana legalization and its impact on schools