Mandating Marijuana Consumption on School Buses While Banning Tobacco Around Minors

Every legislative session brings some eye-catching proposals. While the reasons certain proposals appear interesting differ from bill to bill and depend on the person reviewing them, some combinations can’t help but grab one’s attention.

Washington State gives us a strong dose of irony this cycle. Both the State’s House and Senate are advancing bills to raise the smoking age to 21, while at the same time are finishing up voting on a bill already passed by the House that would require schools to allow some students under 18 to use marijuana on the premises.

The current version of House Bill 1060 states that “A school district must permit a student [under the age of 18]… to consume marijuana on school grounds, aboard a school bus, or while attending a school-sponsored event.” Said student must be prescribed medical marijuana “ as part of the course of treatment of the minor's terminal or debilitating medical condition ” according to existing law in order to be allowed to smoke up on the bus in front of their classmates, but that doesn’t reduce the irony.

Senate Bill 6048 and House Bill 1054 to raise the smoking age to 21 contain several legislative declarations of intent. For example: “The legislature recognizes that many people who purchase cigarettes for minors are between the ages of eighteen to twenty. By decreasing the number of eligible buyers in high school, raising the minimum legal age to sell tobacco and vapor products will decrease the access of students to tobacco products… Nationally, among youth who smoke, more than twice as many get their cigarettes from social sources than from a store or vending machine.”

So the Washington State legislature declares that teen smoking is bad and that teens get tobacco products mainly through ‘social sources’, who are already violating other laws to distribute tobacco products to underage friends, but doesn’t appear to believe this same logic applies when swapping out the tobacco plant for the cannabis plant, presumably because there are other laws in place against distributing cannabis products to underage friends.

This specific allowance that underage medical marijuana patients be allowed to consume cannabis aboard a school bus, especially at a time when several states are debating bans on smoking in motor vehicles where minors are present, is a particularly interesting wrinkle. Since the bill doesn’t require schools to allow smoking, just consumption, underage patients may be required to use edibles (which better not be in a form they find appealing!). But while this may reduce secondhand smoke, it does little to help prevent the unauthorized access via social sources apparently driving the increasing in the tobacco smoking age.

These bills are on course towards becoming law. If they do, it’s only a matter of time before more changes are introduced after a parent finds out their kid got marijuana products at school from a classmate with express legal permission to possess them there.