Mercury News reported on the possibility of medical marijuana being used at Marin General Hospital.
If patients are using medical marijuana on recommendation of their physicians, would it be a feasible option to allow them to use it in hospitals? This will be investigated on request of the publicly elected Marin Healthcare District board.
The board voted in favor of the move 2-0 with three members not voting. CEO of Marin General Lee Domanico, said the hospital would have to discuss the resolution with members of the medical staff, experts in the field and legal counsel to be able to respond to the request.
Dr. Larry Bedard, a longtime board member, and retired emergency medicine physician from Marin General, brought the issue to the board in the form of a resolution.
People should come out of the cannabis closet
Bedard said it is time for people to come out of the cannabis closet. The resolution states that many Marin residents use medical cannabis on an outpatient basis for a number of conditions such as AIDS, cancer, seizures, diabetic neuropathy, PTSD, migraines and many other ailments.
He refers to an article published in 2015 by the American Medical Association on Cannabinoids for Medical Use that found medicinal marijuana is of significant benefit to patients with chronic pain, muscle spasm, cancer chemotherapy nausea, MS, and AIDS.
Bedard opted for a more conservative resolution after the DEA decided last month to keep marijuana a schedule 1 drug, as he originally intended to propose Marin General should allow open use of medical cannabis.
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Marijuana is much less harmful than alcohol
He argues that as a physician in the emergency room he knows marijuana is much less harmful than alcohol. The resolution was passed even though several members abstained.
One member who abstained from voting said the timing of the resolution is very bad. It would have been better after the elections when federal policy direction would have been clearer. He is referring to Proposition 64 going to the ballot for Californian voters to decide on legalizing recreational use of cannabis in the state. He said if voters passed the proposition, there could be a change in the emotional disposition towards cannabis. It is a hot topic at the moment, and many doctors sent him emails to oppose the use of medical cannabis at Marin General.
Behind the scenes the major concern is that Marin General could be denied reimbursement by the federal government, and the state could withhold funding.
Bedard holds the belief that the hospital would be safeguarded from such retaliation by a federal budget amendment which bars the government from using federal funding to penalize patients, hospitals and doctors complying with state laws.
Another district board member, Ann Sparkman, raised yet another regulatory issue, saying that the budget amendment wouldn’t prevent the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) from withdrawing the hospital’s accreditation.
Hospital accreditation in the balance
JCAHO is not a government organization, but their accreditation gives the public reassurance that government hospitals meet quality standards. Bedard said there would have to be discussions held with JCAHO.
Jennifer Rienks a district board member who voted in favor of the resolution said it is the first step towards looking at whether medical cannabis use in hospitals would be feasible, and determining how staff feels about the use of medical marijuana in the hospital.
Hope for an informed, educated policy
There is no deadline for the administration to report back, and Bedard envisages a few educational forums to offer nurses, pharmacists and physicians continuing educational credits. These forums would also give medical staff the opportunity to interact with patients using cannabis for ailments. He says he is asking the hospital and the staff to put an informed and educated policy in place.
Cannabis hospital patients
Whether cannabis hospital patients will be allowed to use this medicine while in the care of Marin General remains to be seen, and perhaps the outcome of the ballot in November will be the determining factor. We will have to wait and see.