Maine schoolchildren could be allowed to take prescribed medical marijuana on school grounds if a parent, guardian or caregiver comes on campus to administer it, under legislation approved Thursday by the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs committee.

The so-called “carry in, carry out” approach means school nurses and personnel won’t be responsible for storing or administering a drug that remains illegal under federal law. “I believe this resolves a lot of those issues and removes the issues around school involvement,” said Rep. Richard Farnsworth, D-Portland. “It’s an open-door policy: You come in and give it (to the student) and you leave.”

The bill specifically notes that the drug cannot be smoked and must be taken in some other form, such as an oil, edible or a pill. The treatment also must be recommended by the child’s health care provider, and documentation provided to the school.

The bill, L.D. 557, passed 10-1 and goes on to the full Legislature for consideration.

Rep. Paul Stearns, R-Guildford, cast the dissenting vote, although other lawmakers emphasized that their support of this particular bill did not mean they supported medical marijuana generally.

“We are not a committee recommending marijuana for schoolchildren,” said House Chairwoman Victoria Kornfield, D-Bangor.

“As difficult as this vote is going to be for some of us, I think we have to take care of the education of our children and if this helps them get through the day, I think we have to do it,” Rep. Joyce Maker, R-Calais, said before casting her vote.

Several lawmakers said they supported the bill, authored by Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea, because they were persuaded that some children, such as cancer patients or those with seizure disorders, would not be able to attend school if they couldn’t take medical marijuana during the day.

“No one can construe that I support marijuana. I’m kind of stunned I’m voting yes on this,” said Rep. Michael McClellan, R-Raymond.

The state Department of Education had testified neither for nor against the bill in an earlier committee meeting and had no comment after the vote. At that time, the department representative noted that Maine state law specifically outlaws marijuana at K-12 schools, and raised concerns about potential side effects or allergic reactions to treatment, even if the medical marijuana was administered by a parent.

Stearns raised a scenario in which a student is either an emancipated minor or 18 years old – and thus an adult. He asked what would prevent that student from self-administering and carrying medical marijuana to school himself?

Sanderson noted that the bill specified that the law’s language specifically says the parent or guardian would go on campus to administer medical marijuana “to a minor child,” but acknowledged she would need to research that.

During public testimony on the bill last month, an Athens mother told the committee that her daughter needed medical marijuana to help control her seizures.

“We are respectfully requesting that our children who are using medical marijuana as legal patients in our home state to control medical conditions, be allowed the right to continue to safely attend school,” Susan Meehan testified in April. “These are children, not criminals; patients, not felons. All children have a right to a free and public education.”

Scott Gagnon, representing the group Smart Approaches to Marijuana Maine, testified during the April hearing that his main concern stemmed from marijuana’s status as an illegal drug under federal law.

“This would put schools in a tricky position, particularly if those schools receive federal funding, which many do,” he said during testimony.

The Maine Principals’ Association, which had opposed the initial bill because it involved school personnel handling medical marijuana, supports the current version, according to Executive Director Dick Durost.

“As long as we are not asked to store, administer, or permit the student to carry the drug we will accept the decision of the Committee,” he wrote in an email.