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Is Medical Cannabis Allowed in Ohio Nursing Homes?

July 1, 2019 • Lakewood Medical • Marijuana Laws

Under Ohio law, nursing home residents could receive medical marijuana, but it most likely would be administered by a caregiver. Of the 21 qualifying conditions approved for treatment by medical marijuana in Ohio, many affect older adults. However, many older patients may rely on at-home caregivers or nursing home personnel for appropriate care, including the administration of medication. This raises the question for older patients: if they want medical marijuana, how do they procure it?  A doctor certified by the state to recommend medical marijuana to a patient can designate a caregiver to act on the patient’s behalf when it comes to purchasing, transporting, and administering the cannabis. Registered caregivers must be at least 21 years of age. Patients are permitted to have two caregivers, but caregivers cannot serve more than two patients, meaning that nurses employed by nursing homes could probably not serve as caregivers in this sense. States like Ohio that have approved the use of medical marijuana are now grappling with the complex legal issues involved with dispensing cannabis in a nursing home setting. Many facilities don’t want to risk losing federal Medicare funding by providing access to a Schedule 1 drug on their premises. Yet some nursing homes in other states have found ways to give their residents this important option, while also staying within the boundaries of the law.

Nursing Homes and Medical Marijuana by State

Though Ohio medical cannabis patients are allowed to enlist a caregiver to pick up medication, few laws apply specifically to the care of older patients in assisted living facilities. The simplest solution would be to register the attending “nurse” as a caregiver, but due to several reasons (including shift changes and staff turnover), this may not be the ideal solution. Additionally, a caregiver cannot “assist” more than two patients, a nursing home would need one registered caregiver for every two patients requiring cannabis.  Currently, Ohio nursing homes and other aged-care facilities could potentially apply for an exemption on the caregiver provision. If granted, caregivers could assist with more than two patients. That might help in providing residents with more assistance if they choose medical marijuana treatment. Several states where medical marijuana is legal have written specific provisions for cannabis use in nursing homes, but the laws vary. For example, Alaska bans medical marijuana use in nursing homes and assisted living facilities that are supervised by the state’s Department of Administration. Meanwhile, Michigan, Oregon, and Rhode Island permit medical marijuana as therapy for Alzheimer’s. In Maine, inpatient hospice workers and nursing homes can be registered medical marijuana caregivers. In New York State, one nursing home allows patients to take medical marijuana, but has strict guidelines in order to remain compliant with federal law. Residents must buy cannabis on their own and store it in a lockbox. If they cannot self-administer, residents can be assisted by a caregiver who is not on the facility’s staff.  In general, smoking or vaping of medical marijuana is not permitted in nursing homes because of no-smoking restrictions. Therefore, tinctures, creams, and edibles would be the preferred method to dispense medical marijuana in an aged-care facility.

Evolving Law

As the different laws in the various states indicate, regulations regarding medical marijuana use in nursing homes and other facilities designed for elderly patients are still evolving. In Ohio, caregivers of nursing home patients can ask if the facility has any guidelines for medical marijuana use on its floors. If you’re a caregiver of an older patient who is either in a nursing home or requires assistance at home because of a qualifying condition, speak to a specialist at Lakewood Medical Clinic. Our doctors are certified to recommend medical marijuana and can discuss the best options for the person you’re caring for. Schedule an appointment today to learn more.