Given that school districts may administer prescribed medications, and students may carry and self-administer their own medications, the question often arises of whether students may use marijuana for medicinal purposes at school.

California’s Compassionate Use Act (CUA) allows Californians to use, possess, and cultivate marijuana for medicinal purposes. However, under the CUA, physicians in California cannot actually prescribe marijuana—they may only recommend it.

Additionally, in comparison to California law, the federal Controlled Substance Act

(CSA) places marijuana in the most restrictive category and classifies it as having no medicinal benefits. Consequently, federal law prohibits the use, possession, distribution, and manufacturing of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Therefore, under federal law, a physician may not lawfully prescribe marijuana for a medicinal purpose. Accordingly, medicinal marijuana is not likely a type of prescribed medication that students may self-administer, or staff may assist in administering at school as described above.

Despite the decriminalization of medical marijuana, students are still prohibited from using, possessing or being under the influence of marijuana (medicinal or otherwise) at school. In fact, under the CUA, no person is permitted to smoke medical marijuana in certain circumstances, including: in any place where smoking is prohibited by law; in or within 1,000 feet of the grounds of a school, recreation center, or youth center, unless the medical use occurs within a residence; or on a school bus. Additionally, medicinal marijuana users remain subject to Education Code 48900 & 48915 provisions that call for suspension and expulsion of students based on the use, sale, and being under the influence of “a controlled substance,” which includes marijuana.

California’s Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act, passed by California voters in November 2016 as Proposition 64, does not meaningfully impact laws pertaining to student discipline. The Act permits the possession and use of marijuana by those 21 years of age and older and explicitly states that it shall not be interpreted to amend, repeal, affect, or preempt laws prohibiting those younger than 21 years of age from engaging in conduct otherwise permissible under the Act. Therefore, school districts may impose discipline on a student, even if they are using marijuana for medicinal purposes.


Excerpt from the School Liability Handbook: Student Activities and Employment Issues. Find out more about this valuable resource.