School districts draft guidelines for students' medical marijuana prescriptions

Branden Petro was born with a mitochondrial condition that causes seizures. He takes several prescriptions to keep in under control. 

Six years ago, he was taking several prescribed medications to keep it under control - which was not a problem at the Hillsborough County middle school he attended.

Today, medical marijuana has taken the pace of some of those prescriptions. Though his disease caused him to become non-verbal a year ago, and he's no longer in school, his mother, Renee Hanania is pushing for parents or nurses to be able to administer medical marijuana to their kids on school property.

She's been fighting for it for years.

"It relieves a lot of the symptoms he has," Renee said of the medical marijuana. "When he needed his dose of cannabis, I would have to go in, sign Branden out, take him off school premise, put him in my car, give him his dose, sign him back in, and he would go about his day." 

Though a 2017 law legalized medical marijuana across the state, some school districts have been slow to create guidelines allowing for students to take their prescriptions. The Florida Department of Education is giving districts until Dec. 1 to draft policies on how students can take cannabis on campus.

"Nurses and some of the staff can actually administer emergency meds, whether it be Tylenol or seizure meds," she said. "Whatever it may be, as long as you sign a piece of paper saying 'Yes, I allow you to give my child this at a certain time,' then that's ok. [For cannabis,] it needs to be the same way."

Pediatrician David Berger, of Wholistic Pediatrics, also believes medical cannabis should be given fair treatment as a treatment.

"There are families now who are saying, 'Thank goodness, for the first time we have something that is working for our kid,'" he said. "And they're terrified that something that's working for them is going to be restricted from the state, because of the state not necessarily understanding the medicine of it all."

Berger is a supporter of medical marijuana patches.

"The school doesn't even have to administer it," he said. "It can be administered in the morning like a Ritalin patch or a pain patch, were are allowed to be used, and they're controlled substances, as well. A patch can be applied before they take off for school in the first place."

FOX 13 reached out to several school districts about their rule-drafting process. Hillsborough, Polk and Sarasota counties said they are working on their drafts. Pasco and Hernando counties have completed their drafts and submitted them to the Department of Education.

The DoE is asking districts to provide notification of board adoption by Dec. 31.