School board president urges look at medical cannabis policy

Ray tells student he plans to put issue on next board agenda

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Douglas County School Board President David Ray has promised that the board will review the district's medical marijuana policy during the next board meeting at the urging of a student who uses cannabis products to treat a medical condition.

The student's parents, Brad and Amber Wann, have spent more than a year advocating for the district to allow school nurses to administer medical marijuana to students who rely on it. Policy currently prohibits staff from doing so.

The couple attends nearly every board meeting to speak on the issue, sometimes accompanied by their children, including their son Ben, who was diagnosed with epilepsy as a child.

Ben uses hemp oil on a daily basis to prevent seizures. He takes the product each morning and night outside of school hours and does not need to bring it to school, the family said. But in the event of a breakthrough seizure, Ben relies on the nasal spray CannatolRx. Cannatol contains THC, and can stop a seizure if one occurs, the company's website claims.

DCSD policy allows parents or primary caregivers to come to school and administer medical marijuana to students, but the products cannot be kept on campus or administered by district staff. In a statement published to the district's website, the district says this is because marijuana remains designated an illegal controlled substance under federal law.

The Wann family says that policy is dangerous and discriminatory. They would not get to Ben in time to administer his nasal spray before a breakthrough seizure caused brain damage, they said.

The Wanns live approximately 20 minutes from his school, Mountain Vista High School, where he is a senior. They also said Ben is allergic to a seizure medication commonly carried in ambulances.

State law allows school personnel to give students medical marijuana in a nonsmokeable form.

House Bill 18-1286 amended a 2016 Colorado law allowing primary caregivers to administer medical marijuana to students by also allowing school personnel to administer medical marijuana. Schools are allowed to opt in or out of the state policy. The bill was signed into law in June 2018.

Amber Wann recently participated in work sessions held by the Clear Creek School District before its board voted this month to establish a similar policy to what they hope Douglas County will adopt.

Ray cautioned he can't guarantee the Douglas County School Board will change its policy, but he will recommend it be placed on the Nov. 12 agenda for review.

The board has for months remained firm in its support of how it allows medical marijuana to be used in schools.

Ray often reads a prepared statement at the end of public comment in response to the Wanns and another family, the Porters, who also advocate for the change in policy.

Ray offered the unexpected decision on Oct. 22 after Ben spoke before the board. The teen discussed how people with epilepsy have experienced discrimination throughout history and urged the board to reconsider its position.

“Today, myself and others like me need immediate access to our life-saving medical cannabis,” he said.

When Ben turned to leave the podium, Ray stopped him.

“Ben, one second,” Ray said. “I want to first of all commend you. The times you've come to this board, you have been respectful. You have been patient, and I see how hard you work to overcome obstacles. So, here's what I want to tell you. Next agenda, we will review JLCDB because of you. Because you have been very brave.”

After the meeting, the Wann family remained skeptical Ray's decision will result in a change of policy. Still, Ben is hopeful the district will begin allowing him to keep his nasal spray on school grounds.

“I would feel a bit more safe in the school,” he said.

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