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Wayland Schools Wrestle With Medical Marijuana Policy

The School Committee policy subcommittee is talking about how best to address the legality of medical marijuana in the state even as it remains illegal federally.

Medical marijuana became a legal reality in Massachusetts on Jan. 1, 2013, but what that means for the state’s school districts remains a murky question.

The Wayland School Committee’s policy subcommittee, comprised of Barb Fletcher and Beth Butler, is beginning to consider the issue with an eye toward constructing new policy or modifying existing policy to address use of medical marijuana at Wayland’s schools.

“The question is whether or not this medical marijuana falls under the category of medicine rather than illegal drugs,” said Butler, a former judge, as she examined Wayland’s existing policies about drugs, alcohol and tobacco use on campus. “Just because [the state] allowed it, it’s still a federal law.”

That’s the question that Michael Gilbert, a field director with the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, said forms the foundation of his organization’s concerns and creates a complicated situation.

“The biggest issue that we have to grapple with is the fact that we have a federal law that says marijuana is illegal, and we have federal laws that say you can’t have illegal drugs in school,” Gilbert explained. “Frankly, what we’re trying to do is get the legislature to deal with the potential issue and carve out some exceptions where these conflicts exist.”

And the Massachusetts legislature is discussing the situation on some level. Sen. John Keenan (D-Quincy) has drafted a bill designed to "close loopholes and strengthen safeguards in the statute," according to a press release from his office.

One section of the bill prohibits the "smoking or consumption" of any marijuana on school, college or university grounds (public or private) or buses; public transportation; or in the presence of anyone under the age of 18, among other restrictions.

When it comes to guidelines specific for Wayland schools, the School Committee’s policy subcommittee said Friday that it wants to look specifically at the School Committee’s existing policy JICH, Alcohol and Drug Use, which reads:

In view of the fact that the use of alcohol and/or drugs can endanger the health and safety of the user and others, and recognizing the deleterious effect the use of alcoholic beverages can have on the maintenance of general order and discipline, the School Committee prohibits the use of, serving of, or consumption of any alcoholic beverage on school property or at any school function.

Additionally, any student, regardless of age, who has been drinking alcoholic beverages prior to attendance at, or participation in, a school-sponsored activity, will be barred from that activity and subject to disciplinary action.

In reading the policy, Fletcher pointed out that it mentions “drugs,” but technically only prohibits the use of alcohol. Still, she added, it appears to be the “policy to amend” to address the medical marijuana question.

Gilbert said that his organization recognizes that this policy issue could leap from boardroom discussion to boots-on-the-ground concerns at any time. Medical marijuana is now legal in the Commonwealth regardless of whether schools have outlined a policy response.

The state's Department of Public Health is charged with issuing regulations and guidance related to certain aspects of the law by May 1, 2013. According to an FAQ published by that department, until those regulations are issued, no dispensaries can open. As of Jan. 1, 2013, however, patients with a doctor's recommendation could begin using medical marijuana and growing limited amounts in their homes for personal use.

“We don’t have a great deal of guidance from the state on this issue because the law was passed by initiative petition,” Gilbert said, adding that his organization is working on drafting some guidance for local school committees.

For now, he said, “Our advice to school districts would likely be, ‘Do not put your federal funds in jeopardy, therefore you need to comply with the federal law.’”

Fletcher and Butler agreed during Friday’s meeting to continue seeking guidance on the topic, looking specifically to districts that already have policies as well as how other states have responded. The conversation will be revisited at a later meeting.

Paul Hurteau January 22, 2013 at 07:49 PM
“Just because [the state] allowed it, it’s still a federal law.” No, the STATE did not ALLOW it,, The VOTERS VOTED ON IT!! You know,, WE THE PEOPLE!!!!
Marie Perry January 22, 2013 at 08:06 PM
While I think that youth who have a chronic illness should get the help they need, I am not so sure weed is the best choice for kids...its one thing if an adult whose brain is developed uses weed, but i think kids should not be allowed to use marijuana...just my 2 cents
Kevin_Hunt January 22, 2013 at 08:09 PM
So Vicodin, Codeine, ADD speed, and Zoloft are OK for kids? Please compare the side effects of these FDA approved drugs (and # of deaths) to marijuana. Just my 3 cents. Thanks.
JRZ January 22, 2013 at 08:11 PM
Luckily, you aren't their doctor, and it doesn't sound like you're qualified to offer medical advice. Do what you like with your own body, but don't you dare restrict what others have the right to do to take care of themselves.
Kevin_Hunt January 22, 2013 at 08:22 PM
I am skeptical of the "New Zealand Study" that showed an 'IQ drop' in kids that were using marijuana socially (i.e. not under a doctor's care). Here's a quote from Richard Poulton, the lead researcher in the U. Of Otago, New Zealand study that shows the alleged big IQ drop and decrease in cognitive functioning that all the anti MMJ forces refer to as evidence for their case: "Only approx. 5% (52) of the 1037 individuals"...scored lower...(985 did not, but no mention of them)...."Thus any effect of cannabis on the brain is confined to a relatively small segment of the population." In addition, cognitive function was measured by a questionnaire given to relatives and friends of the subjects. Very objective. Questions included "can't concentrate, mind wanders" and "forgets to do errands, return calls, pay bills". What happened to the other 985 in the study? No mention of them at all. In addition, the 'Dr. Amen brain scan studies' that showed 'holes in the brain' from marijuana use (using fMRI technology) have been refuted: A teen who consumes alcohol is likely to have reduced brain tissue health, but a teen who uses marijuana is not, according to a new study. The study was conducted by researchers at UC San Diego and is scheduled to be published in the April issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.”

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