It would go to figure, with the growing number of states where cannabis is legal, that educators are grappling with how to talk about marijuana with students in school. After all, the transition from the era of “Just Say No” messaging about how drugs are bad to this brave new world where cannabis products are available in the mall and corner pharmacies takes some explaining, even for the grown.
Happily, some school districts are getting out in front of the issue. On Thursday, officials announced that Florida A&M University is currently working on a program to bring cannabis education to K-12 students.
Patricia Green-Powell, the interim director of FAMU’s medical marijuana research and education wing, presented the plan to the state senate’s appropriations committee. The way she sees it, the programming will be a key educational tool for kids looking to understand the world around them.
“We know from the research that was conducted by the Pew Charitable Foundation, 2.9 million children are living with grandparents,” she said. “Grandparents – not saying all of them – perhaps may use medical marijuana. They’re in the care of their children. And if a child asks, grandmamma, granddaddy, what’s that?”
The plan revolves around teaching school teachers the tools they need to bring accurate cannabis education into the classroom. FAMU plans to start the pilot teacher training program at its Developmental Research School in Tallahassee.
“The classroom is a safe haven for students. If a teacher can have these conversations in the comfort of their own classroom, where the climate and culture helps the students to understand what’s being taught, it’s a lot less invasive than having someone come into that classroom,” said Green-Powell.
In 2017, FAMU was entrusted with moving cannabis education forward in the state, especially in communities of color. The school gets $10 for every $75 medical marijuana ID card issued by the state.
Not everyone in the Florida state senate was convinced by Green-Powell’s presentation. “The entire program brings concern to me,” said appropriations committee chairperson Rob Bradley, a Republican representing Orange Park.
His doubts, however, were less tied to the concept of kids learning about weed, but rather to concerns over how the FAMU cannabis program is being run. Its previous executive director Peter Harris was fired in August, and the Department of Health only recently released $2.2 million that it had been withholding from the program — which some saw as lacking direction — with the appointment of Green-Powell as its interim leader.
Though kids certainly won’t be encouraged to use cannabis themselves by the educational program, they are affected by cannabis legalization in various ways. Of course, some children are also medical marijuana patients, with many health conditions best treated with cannabis products. Many states have structured their marijuana legalization, particularly in the form of products available and how they are packaged, around protecting kids from accidental ingestion.
In many states such as Maryland and Colorado, the tax revenues from cannabis sales are earmarked for use by the public educational system.
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