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New Colorado law expands access to medical cannabis in schools

Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday signed a new law expanding access to and use of cannabis-based medicine in schools, a step he called overdue.

The bipartisan law, SB21-56, removes the authority that school principals currently have to permit — or not — the storage and administration on school grounds of non-smokable cannabis-based medicine, which is used to treat seizures and other ailments.

Once the new law takes effect this fall, school boards will be required to implement policies that allow for the storage and administration of this medicine by school personnel on school grounds. Any school staffer who is uncomfortable performing these duties can recuse themselves, the new law states, but officials cannot exempt entire schools from the law.

Colorado “will finally treat cannabis like other prescribed medicines,” said Polis, a longtime cannabis advocate.

The new law was widely popular in the legislature, securing votes from 90 of the 100 state lawmakers. Among its champions are two Douglas County Republicans, Senate Minority Leader and Chris Holbert and Rep. Kevin Van Winkle. Holbert has called this legislation the most meaningful of his career in office, and he and other lawmakers credited parent advocacy for advancing this policy.

“Parents should not have to choose between their child’s education and access to life-saving medication,” Van Winkle said. “This has been a long road coming.”

As the legislature expands access to cannabis for school-age patients, it may also look to restrict certain non-medicinal cannabis products. A bill to more tightly regulate high-potency THC products and limit access by children is expected to be introduced in the coming days.

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