Oklahoma Public Schools Increase Drug Testing For Students

By Paul Gaita 07/13/18

The decision comes on the heels of the state's voters passing a measure to legalize medical marijuana.

students walking on a high school campus

A public school district in Oklahoma will double the number of students that will be required to undergo random drug testing in the coming school year.

The move comes on the heels of a recent decision by state voters to pass a measure that allows for legal use of medical marijuana without a qualifying condition, but Bret Towne, superintendent for Edmond Public Schools, said that the increase was "coincidental" with the bill's passage.

According to coverage by High Times, more than 700 of the 3,000 students in the district who participate in extracurricular activities will be randomly tested for drugs this year.

Random drug testing for students in Edmond Public Schools, which has been conducted largely among students in extracurricular activities for the past six years, was reduced two years ago after funding for the district was subjected to cuts. But at a meeting on July 2, the Edmond school board voted to return to previous testing levels, which is the number of students they are legally allowed to test.

According to Towne, the board's decision was not directly influenced by the passage of SQ 788, which allows patients to use marijuana for medical purposes after obtaining a recommendation from a qualified physician.

Unlike most medical marijuana measures, SQ 788 requires no pre-existing health conditions to qualify for the medical marijuana program, and according to Towne, that element was cause for alarm among some parents. 

"My concern is how it's going to affect students on campus and the availability [of medical marijuana]," he told Oklahoma's KFOR News. "We always worry about students having easier access to it."

But while the decision to increase the number of tests was a simple matter of voting, deciding how the school district will handle the issue on a broad scale will require more debate.

As High Times noted, SQ 788 allows anyone 18 years or older to use the drug with a doctor's recommendation, and grants permission to minors aged 16 to 17 to use medical cannabis as long as they have recommendations from two doctors.

According to Towne, he'll wait to see how the Oklahoma Department of Health will rule in regard to medical marijuana use on campuses, and then meet with state school board officials to consider revisions to their current policy. Currently, prescription medication are held and distributed to students by a school secretary. 

But as Towne said, applying that policy to medical marijuana is "a little bit different situation [sic]."

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.