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Navigating Marijuana in Seniors Housing

Leigh Ann Hubbard December 3, 2018
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Marijuana’s popularity is growing among older people, yet many who live in long-term care communities are not allowed to partake—even if their state says it’s legal. That’s because it’s illegal at the federal level. In the 31 states where medical marijuana is allowed, longevity leaders are grappling with how to balance residents’ rights with business liability.

Here, we curated stories that look at some of the factors seniors housing is considering—and what some communities have decided.

Headlines & Insights
Curated excerpts from though-provoking articles.

Is Cannabis Allowed in Nursing Homes?
Leafy / Rae Lland

Upon my research for this article, I made some cold calls to nursing homes across the nation to highlight those which allowed medical card holders access to cannabis. Out of nearly 100 highly-rated homes—in states such as Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Vermont, Montana, California, Maine, New York, and Colorado—only three nursing homes said they allow cannabis use.…

I was often told, flat out and with little explanation or enthusiasm, that the answer was simply “no.” And others didn’t even know the answer to the question, “Does your facility allow residents to use medical cannabis with a doctor referral?”…

Not only was it extremely difficult to find a nursing home that allowed medical cannabis, it was apparently a question that most had not even considered—even in legal states.

Senior Living Providers Can No Longer Blow Off Pot Policies
Senior Housing News / Tim Regan

Despite the rising trend of marijuana legalization, the drug still holds many legal pitfalls for senior living providers. Chief among them is the fact that owners and operators who let residents partake could technically be subject to federal enforcement under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which classifies marijuana as a schedule 1 drug along with LSD, heroin and cocaine.

Nursing homes or other senior care communities that take federal dollars could be at an even greater risk. For example, allowing marijuana use could imperil a nursing home’s Medicare certification, according to a March 19 blog post [lawyer Gabriela] Sanchez co-authored. …

Some best practices Sanchez suggested include informing residents of marijuana policies, creating negotiated risk agreements, obtaining proof of medical marijuana cards, disallowing workers to administer or store marijuana, controlling which forms of marijuana are allowed, and providing informational brochures about safe and legal marijuana use.

How SNFs Can Reduce the Stigma Around Legal Marijuana
Skilled Nursing News / Carlo Calma

[Hebrew Home at Riverdale] requires that the patient self-administer the medical cannabis.

“If they’re not capable of self-administering the medical cannabis, then they are, by New York State law, allowed to designate up to two caregivers who would administer it for them,” Palace said.…

At Balfour Senior Living, medical marijuana is administered by nursing staff following a doctor’s order for the treatment.

New Rulings on Medical Marijuana Use Go Against Employers
AP News / Dave Collins

Health care worker Katelin Noffsinger told a potential employer that she took medical marijuana to deal with the effects of a car accident, but when a drug test came back positive, the nursing home rescinded her job offer anyway.

A federal judge last month ruled that the nursing home, which had cited federal laws against pot use, violated an anti-discrimination provision of the Connecticut’s medical marijuana law.…

The decision will likely be used in arguments in similar cases elsewhere, said Fiona Ong, an employment attorney with the Baltimore firm of Shawe Rosenthal.

Looking to learn more? LeadingAge is holding a webinar on Medical and Recreational Marijuana in Senior Living on Wednesday, December 12. And you can check out their Aging Unmasked podcast on medical marijuana

Leigh Ann Hubbard

Leigh Ann Hubbard is a freelance journalist specializing in aging, health, the American South and Alaska.

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