DENVER (KDVR) — In an impassioned speech in front of the Colorado Senate Education Committee, State Sen. Chris Holbert was moved to tears fighting for his latest piece of legislation, which would expand access to cannabis-based medicines for kids at school.
“I was wrong,” he stated.
Holbert is a Republican legislator from Douglas County. His district has no marijuana dispensaries.
“I thought that medical marijuana was an excuse for people to get high, sit around and smoke pot,” Holbert said.
He voted against putting legalized cannabis in Colorado’s Constitution. He also voted against pro-cannabis measures, including medical cannabis, for his four years in office because he “just didn’t believe it.”
That all changed, he says, as he got to know families with children that benefit from CBD medications.
In 2015, he helped champion a piece of legislation called “Jack’s Law” which requires that caregivers be allowed to possess and administer cannabis-based medications on school property during the school day.
In 2018, Quintin Lovato, a then-third grader from Eagle County, successfully lobbied lawmakers to adopt “Quintin’s Amendment.” It allowed school districts to opt-in to letting a school store non-smokable medical marijuana for a student who needed to take it during the school day. An adult staff member could then volunteer to help administer the dose.
“This law has changed my life. I feel like I finally can be a normal kid,” Quintin told the Senate Education Committee.
Since being allowed to take his medication to prevent seizures at school without his mother being present, Quintin says he has made new friends, joined both the baseball and basketball teams, and is very close to making the Honor Roll. Before, he was bullied, withdrawn, struggling at school and thought about hurting himself.
Quintin now hopes other kids across Colorado can have the same experience he has had.
“I came here to make sure they can do what I do every day,” he said.
However, only two school districts in Colorado opted in to Quintin’s Amendment.
“Because Quintin’s Amendment was passed as a permissible law, we are allowing school districts to pick and choose who receives their life-saving medication and who could potentially die,” Quintin’s mother, Hannah Lovato, said during her testimony Wednesday.
Holbert and bill co-sponsor Sen. Julie Gonzales are hoping to expand that same access to every child in Colorado.
“This bill will require school districts to store cannabis-based medicine, for the school board of that district to adopt a policy to figure out how they’ll do that,” Holbert said. “And it will allow adults, teachers, a school nurse, a coach, a principal — it will allow them to assist in dispensing.”
This latest piece of legislation was inspired by Douglas County student Benjamin Wann.
“We’re now 25, 30 minutes away from his school. Seizures can be very harmful in five minutes. There’s nothing on an ambulance that can save my son’s life,” Benjamin’s father Brad Wann told FOX31.
Brad or his wife Amber must drive to school each day to administer Benjamin’s hemp oil. This proposed law would allow an adult staff member at school to volunteer to do that instead, using medication safely stored in the school nurse’s office.
He says this proposed law is all about access to medication in a place where students spend a majority of their day.
“And they’re going to be treated like any other child that needs an EpiPen or any other type of rescue medication,” Brad Wann said.
The committee passed the bill with an unanimous 7-0 vote. It will now move onto the House Appropriations Committee.