Aug 172011

By Linda Kor–

With a medical marijuana debate brewing between state and federal officials, it’s become difficult for municipalities to determine what outcome to expect. In addition, school districts face the uncertainty of how medical marijuana use should be handled in schools as students are taught to stay away from drugs, especially since prescription-drug abuse is most common among young people.

In the July meeting of the Holbrook Unified School District Governing Board, the board held the first reading of a revision to the district’s policy regarding public conduct on school property to include the wording that no person shall, except as authorized by ARS 36-2801 et. Seq. (Arizona Medical Marijuana Act), possess or engage in the use of medical marijuana, smoke marijuana, or operate or navigate a motorized vehicle. The board also held the first reading of a revision to the policy regarding public conduct on school property to include that smoking on school premises at public functions will not be allowed, which will encompass both tobacco and medical marijuana.

“As a district, we enforce a zero tolerance through our policies. We will not tolerate anyone under the influence at school or any school function,” stated Holbrook Superintendent Dr. Robbie Koerperich. While that statement appears reasonable when it comes to students and visitors, it may not be so simple when it comes to employees.

“Medical marijuana standards for teachers have not been discussed yet. It’s a controversial subject, but I can say we will not tolerate a bus driver, teacher or administrator to be around students if they are under the influence,” said Koerperich.

With district funding coming from both the federal government and the state, Koerperich equates it to being caught in the middle of a brother and sister fight. “This is a tough spot to be in when you don’t want to risk funding,” he added.

House Bill 2541 provides some protection to employers from litigation by clarifying what can constitute termination, suspension or reassignment of an employee who is prescribed medical marijuana, but is impaired at work. The bill defines the term “impairment” with a set of symptoms similar to what we would all commonly understand, such as slurred speech, the inability to walk, appearance and strange behavior.

Koerperich noted that the matter is still under debate, but said he believes it is prudent to be prepared for an outcome that could affect the schools. As a result, the matter will be brought before the school board for consideration in September.