The Washington State Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee (WA Senate EDU) considers issues relating to kindergarten through twelfth grade (K-12) education. The committee also considers issues related to early learning programs, including the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program and Working Connections Program.
The Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee hosted a public hearing on HB 1095, “Concerning the administration of marijuana to students for medical purposes,” on Wednesday March 27th.
- HB 1095 was granted a public hearing in its House policy committee on January 25th and a substitute bill was passed during executive session on February 1st. Substitute HB 1095 (SHB 1095) was passed by the full House on March 12th.
- Committee Staff Coordinator Ailey Kato briefed members on the bill’s effects (audio – 2m, video); from the Senate bill report:
- Requires school districts to permit a student who meets state law requirements to consume marijuana concentrates on school grounds, aboard a school bus, or while attending a school-sponsored event.
- Directs school districts to adopt a policy to authorize parents or guardians to administer marijuana concentrates to a student for medical purposes upon request by a parent or guardian of a student who is a qualifying patient.
- Provides that the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and school districts must suspend implementation of these provisions if certain conditions are met.
- Kato said the fiscal note had an “indeterminate” cost but pointed to the state receiving federal funding and that it was “unknown what action, if any, the federal government will take if this bill were to pass.” She went on to note that in fiscal year 2018, Washington got $908 million in federal education funding. Saying that Section 4 of the bill permitted OSPI to suspend implementation if a federal official “issues a communication that suggests federal funding will be withheld if the state continues implementation.” The legislation also requires the Washington State Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to issue a letter verifying federal money won’t be compromised.
- Representative Brian Blake, the bill’s sponsor, testified that SHB 1095 was “about keeping these kids in school” and that most students would be using “[cannabidiol (CBD)] oil.” Blake described a constituent whose child qualified for medical cannabis, but had to leave school grounds to administer their medication. “This is an attempt to craft a policy that allows these kids to stay in school,” he assured senators. He added, “we don’t want to put federal funding at risk” and said he incorporated language from OSPI to create a “narrowly crafted bill” (audio – 1m, video).
- Committee Chair Lisa Wellman asked, and Blake confirmed, the bill wouldn’t require involvement from school personnel (audio – 3m, video).
- Senator Keith Wagoner wondered who gave healthcare approval for a student to qualify for medical cannabis. “What type of person can authorize this under your bill?” Blake responded that children need to have a card authorized by their physician under the bill. He estimated that between 50-90 students might qualify.
- RCW 69.51A.220 outlines medical authorization of cannabis for persons under 18 years old.
- Senator Brad Hawkins asked if the bill was for “CBD oil” only. Blake answered, “What we don’t want, you know, the parent’s not going to come into school with smokable marijuana and smoke marijuana on the school grounds.” He said it would often be a tincture added to cookies, juice, or milk. Wellman said different students might need different products.
- Roz Thompson, Government Relations and Advocacy Director from the Association of Washington School Principals (AWSP), testified “other” saying that principals had a “mixed reaction” best summarized by a “quizzical face emoji.” She stated the group would “support it for the students who need it” and said the “very narrow definition” for qualifying students helped the bill (audio – 2m, video).
- Lucinda Young, representing the Washington Education Association (WEA), also testified “other” on the bill. Noting “unique challenges” around cannabis due to federal law, she said WEA would remain neutral so long as school staff wasn’t required to participate. She indicated the licenses of school nurses could be at risk (audio – 1m, video).
- Hawkins observed that few speakers testified “con” at recent hearings before probing deeper about WEA’s preference on SHB 1095. Young responded that health bills were judged by what school personnel were asked to do because WEA were “not doctors.” Because staff would “not take part in this process at all,” the group was neutral (audio – 2m, video).
- John Barclay said his daughter, River, had her first seizure in 2014 due to a generalized epileptic disorder. Barclay told members other drugs “did harm” to his daughter whereas cannabis “works phenomenally.” He said current law gave schools the choice to allow cannabis treatments, but few districts did. Barclay confirmed there would be “no contamination to other students” because the bill would only allow usage of non-smokable products. Barclay highlighted the approach of other states, specifically New Jersey’s law and a recent Colorado law, which allowed school nurses to dispense cannabis. He claimed policies were “working in other states” and said accessibility for qualifying children would mean greater access to therapy with special education staff, therapy that Barclay and River would engage to make her “more independent as an adult” (audio – 3m, video).
- Senator Mike Padden asked how cannabis impacted River. Barclay told him the medication had “gotten more advanced through time” and required him to apply the same care a doctor would when measuring a milligram dosage of CBD. “She gets a snack at lunch and goes back to school” Barclay explained and indicated treatment was typically oil measured out onto a cookie or mixed in a drink (audio – 3m, video).
- Senator Jeff Holy asked whether CBD or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) was the active compound in River’s medicine. Barclay responded that he dispensed “260 milligrams of CBD only” on a daily basis to River and that “there’s no high effect, no psychological effect of it.” Holy mentioned Marinol, an approved synthetic THC, and asked if it had been considered instead. Barclay replied that River had been in a trial for Epidiolex, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved CBD-derived epilepsy medicine, but stopped participation due to complications.
- See 2017 coverage of the Barclay family by KOMO News.