Last week, the California legislature passed “JoJo’s Act” which will allow parents to administer medical marijuana remedies to their children on public school property. The law would replace the system already in place that forces parents to remove their students from school and take them one thousand feet away from school property to administer the medical marijuana.
The legislation is named after a California teen named JoJo who began using medical marijuana to combat his rare form of epilepsy. Normal pharmaceuticals did not work for JoJo, but the medical marijuana nearly cured all of his symptoms. The arguments in favor of JoJo’s act range from curbing class time missed to freedom of medical choice, but the bill’s opponents believe the dangers of introducing marijuana to public schools far outweigh the benefits.
One of the most cited concerns regarding JoJo’s Act is the potential for marijuana abuse by students. There are concerns over the possibility of forged notes or potential high potency use, but those concerns are unfounded. Essentially the only way a student could receive a high potency does of marijuana is if the parent is the reason, which appears unlikely. This bill simply allows for parents to come on to campus and administer the remedies as public schools will not allow their staff to administer the drugs for fear of losing federal funding.
The confluence of federal funding and reliable legislation is a fine line that JoJo’s Act, like similar legislation in other states, must be cognizant of. Federal Education funding requires that schools must make a good faith effort to maintain “drug free workplaces.”
States with legislation similar to JoJo’s act have attempted to mitigate potential loss of federal grants by ensuring school districts that the state would reimburse any funds lost as a result of implementing legislation. States like Colorado have even given school districts the option to opt-out of the programs given that they meet certain requirements.
Lastly, JoJo’s Act and similar legislation fuel the debate on marijuana’s effectiveness for treating certain conditions and the safety of marijuana use in children. Because of the limited research opportunities for cannabis and its derivatives, the overall effectiveness for treating conditions such as epilepsy, autism, and cancer related nausea has been called into question.
While studies have shown promising results for marijuana’s clinical application, only one cannabis related medicine has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Along with lack of scientific data, groups such as The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (The AACAP) do not recommend children use cannabis. The AACAP states “long-term use of marijuana during adolescence is associated with increased incidence and worsened course of psychotic, mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders” and such disorders and their marijuana related occurrence needs to be further studied.
Although cannabis has shown promise in the medical field, its application to children remains obstructed with Olympic sized hurdles. JoJo’s law in California attempts to allow children access to promising marijuana applications, but if state officials are not careful, unintended consequences can manifest and further slow the progress of the industry.