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Florida schools are drafting medical marijuana policies

Posted at 5:50 PM, Nov 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-04 07:27:24-05

TAMPA, Fla. — School districts have until Dec. 1 to draft a policy allowing qualified kids to take medical cannabis on campus.

State leaders are mandating schools to allow students with a medical cannabis card to start taking their prescribed medicines at school in 2020.

It's great news for Renee Hanania who has fought for years to get Tampa Bay school districts to allow parents to administer medical marijuana to their children.

“I’m just excited. It’s like yay! It’s happening finally,” she exclaimed.

For years, Hanania has worked around loopholes to give her son his prescribed medical marijuana.

“I would actually give him cannabis before he would go to school and then go to school, sign him out, take him into my car give him a dose of cannabis and then sign him back in. It seemed like a long process,” she said.

The medicine is the only thing she says works to alleviate her son Branden's seizures.

“It has been amazing. Branden is no longer taking any pharmaceutical drugs,” Hanania explained.

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Soon, kids with a medical marijuana card will have an easier time taking their prescriptions at school.

While it's up to every school district to come up with their own policy, two rules will be statewide: The medical marijuana won't be kept on school property and a parent or caregiver will have to come on campus to administer the medicine.

That's something Pediatrician David Berger of Wholistic Pediatrics and Family Care worries about. “Not all parents can get to school. They may be working or live too far away in order to do that.”

Students would also be banned from smoking medical marijuana or using patches. Berger is advocating for the patches to be allowed.

"The whole purpose of this patch is the slow, steady release of this treatment. Kids can take a dose before school, but it's wearing off by lunchtime. I worry they're taking away an important method that can be helping a lot of kids," Berger said.

Berger says he's seen a difference in the children he's prescribed medical marijuana to.

"I have kids left and right reducing their anxiety medications because of medical cannabis. It's really helping," he said.

ABC Action News checked in with local school districts and found out Pinellas and Pasco counties are drafting a policy and getting parent feedback now. Hernando County already has a policy in place. Hillsborough, Sarasota and Polk counties haven’t discussed it yet.

Not all parents and grandparents are on board with implementing medical marijuana policies in schools.

Diane Maritato, a grandmother from Hillsborough County says she doesn't support it.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea because I think it puts too much responsibility on the teachers and they already have a lot of responsibilities so to be able to keep up with who can have medical marijuana and not would be a hard thing to do,” she elaborated.

The subject is tricky for school districts because while medical marijuana is legal in Florida, it’s illegal on a federal level.

Yet, if school districts don't submit a plan, they could risk losing state funding.