Changes to Ashley’s Law: What Does It Mean for Medical Marijuana in Schools?

Governor signs bill expanding the administration of medical marijuana to students.

By:  Kateah M. McMasters

kateah.mcmasters@mhtlaw.com

On August 12, 2019, Governor Pritzker signed Senate Bill 455 expanding “Ashley’s Law”, which currently allows a parent, guardian or designated caregiver to administer medical marijuana to a student with a valid prescription on school grounds and on school buses.

The law’s expansion (Public Act 101-0370) amends Section 22-33 of the Illinois School Code to require school districts, public schools, charter schools, and non-public schools to allow a school administrator or nurse to administer a “medical cannabis infused product” (i.e. edible and topical products) to a student that is a registered qualifying patient under the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Program Act while on school grounds, at school-sponsored activities, at before or after school care on school grounds, or on a school bus.  However, the law does not explicitly require school administrators or nurses to actually administer medical marijuana to students; instead, the amendment only requires schools to allow these personnel to administer medical marijuana to a student if they are willing to do so.

The amendment also permits schools to authorize students to self-administer their own medical marijuana under the direct supervision of an administrator or nurse.  As with the change discussed above, the law does not explicitly require schools to allow its students to self-administer their medical marijuana; however, they are permitted to do so.

Additional requirements and training

In order for a school administrator or nurse to administer medical marijuana to a student, or for a student to self-administer medical marijuana, the parent or guardian must provide the following to the school:

(1) written authorization for its use, including the time where or the special circumstances under which the medical marijuana must be administered, and

(2) a copy of the registry identification card of the student (as a registered qualifying patient) and the parent or guardian (as a designated caregiver).

If a school permits self-administration by a student, the authorization must be renewed each school year.

Medical marijuana to be administered by a school nurse or administrator, or self-administered by the student, may now be stored on school property, but it must be stored in the same manner as all other student medication at the school, and can only be accessed by the school nurse or an administrator.

Personnel who elect to administer medical marijuana to students must complete training on the administration of medical cannabis infused products before they may administer cannabis to students.  The training will be developed by the Illinois State Board of Education and Illinois Department of Public Health., and must be completed annually.

Finally, the new law amends Section 25 of the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Program Act to extend its immunities to school administrators and nurses who elect to administer medical cannabis to students or to assist students in self-administration under the School Code.  Such nurses and administrators are immune from arrest, prosecution, and denial of any right or privilege, including a civil penalty.  However, unlike the immunities for designated caregivers, school nurses and administrators are not immune from disciplinary action by an occupational or professional licensing board.

Next steps

The new law takes effect on January 1, 2020. Prior to the effective date schools should review their policies addressing the administration of medical marijuana as necessary. Schools without such policies should come into legal compliance by establishing them, because such policies were required when Ashley’s Law first became effective on August 1, 2018.  

Schools are encouraged to contact legal counsel to discuss the impact of the changes to Ashley’s Law and to formulate a new policy regarding the use of medical marijuana by qualifying students on school buses and school grounds that is consistent with the amendments to the School Code.