Tomorrow, November 5, 2010, eight states will vote on the controversial medical marijuana issue, and could potentially legalize medicinal use of the substance. If it should become legal, skilled nursing facilities will have a few issues of their own to address. The federal government considers marijuana to have no medicinal value, so allowing residents to use marijuana for medical purposes can pose some interesting legal quandaries for facilities.
States voting on the issue include Arizona, North Carolina, Illinois, Ohio, Massachussetts, Pennsylvania, New York, and South Dakota.
In states where medical marijuana is already legal, some nursing homes have enacted policies and procedures for storing and dispensing the substance to residents. But in some states, such as Alaska, senior housing facilities are not required to accomodate residents who use marijuana medicinally. This decision brings up ethical concerns involving patient choice, and takes away from culture change widely being implemented in the senior living industry, which promotes resident empowerment and choice.
To further complicate matters, facilities who do choose to permit residents to use medical marijuana could face the loss of Medicare and/or Medicaid reimbursements because of government red tape. The loss of federal payments would be devastating for the majority of senior housing providers.
Some states, such as Maine, have changed laws to permit skilled nursing and inpatient hospice facilities to act as registered medical marijuana caregivers, which would enable the facilities to obtain the substance through a dispensary and subsequently dispense it to residents. Dispensaries measure and package doses, so that facilities are able to maintain a proper inventory as they do with all pharmaceuticals. Other states, including New Mexico, are following suit by implementing similar legal frameworks.
Read the related article in McKnight's Long Term Care News.
Image Copyright Chuck Coker on Flickr Creative Commons.