Medical marijuana is not administered in mainstream healthcare facilities, such as hospitals and local clinics. But a hospital in California is hoping to change this practice, in order to introduce greater levels of transparency during treatment.
Marin General Hospital is in the process of investigating the feasibility of allowing patients to consume cannabis products in rooms. Numerous individuals suffering from crippling diseases, such as chronic pain, PTSD and seizures, already use medical marijuana on an outpatient basis.
“It’s far better for the medical staff to know what people are using and to ensure the right quality and the right fit with other medications, so this is probably smart,” explained Larry Cohen, executive director of the Prevention Institute in Oakland.
According to a study that monitored compliance with the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) standards for tobacco control, over 96 percent of hospitals around the country have implemented “no smoking” policies. The report concluded that many healthcare institutions have restrictions in place that supersede the JCAHO guidelines. But these rulings focused mostly on tobacco- not medical cannabis.
In order to ease compliance with such policies, Larry Bedard, a board member of Marin Healthcare District, confirmed it is likely that smoking marijuana will still be banned in the building. However, patients may soon be able to consume other medical cannabis products, including edibles, tinctures and etc. Bedard did not clarify if vaping the herb would be tolerated in the hospital.
In other states, with focus on Connecticut and Maine, officials have enforced laws that prevent workers in hospitals from “criminal, civil or disciplinary action” in the event they help patients consume medical cannabis products in the building. This was confirmed by Paul Armentano, deputy director for Washington NORML.
The California-based hospital is not the first facility to consider relaxing its medical cannabis guidelines for patients undergoing treatment in the building. The Sheba Medical Center in Israel participated in pilot programs that facilitated medical marijuana use in 2009. Inside the building, patients could partake in cannabis, as long as one is holding a permit from the Health Ministry.
The hospital also caters to special requests, so that patients can get the most out of the plant. For example, a 24-year-old cancer patient who was admitted in Sheba Medical Center expressed her need to smoke weed via a rolled joint. Unfortunately, the ward she was in did not allow smoking due to risk of medical equipment malfunction. To cater to the patient’s request, healthcare staff transferred her in a private room, where she smoked cannabis through an open window.
“We make it clear to the staff that smoking medical marijuana doesn’t endanger the medical staff on the wards,” said Ora Shamai, head nurse of Sheba’s pain management program. “It does not harm those in the area via passive smoking.”