Last election day (November 3, 2009) Maine voters approved Question 5, which enacted the citizen-initiated bill, “An act to establish the Maine Medical Marijuana Act “ LD975, IB2, allowing for medical marijuana use by people with debilitating and chronic medical conditions.
Maine also changed its laws, so that nursing homes or in-patient hospices can act as registered medical marijuana caregivers, making them able to obtain medical marijuana from a dispensary, which measures and packages the dosages, making it easier for the nursing facility to inventory.
This is important, because eight other states voted on Nov. 2 on approval of medical marijuana. And if they don’t have the proper dispensary legislation in place, it could mean that residents of nursing homes and hospices will not have access to medical marijuana, which curbs nausea (often caused by chemotherapy and other treatments) and allows patients to regain appetite, eat and retain their food.
In Alaska, for instance, the state marijuana law says that facilities are not required to accommodate residents using cannabis in any facility monitored by the state’s Department of Administration, including assisted living facilities. Even in states where medical cannabis is legal, the federal government doesn’t consider it to have medicinal value. As a result, assisted living facilities not registered as medical marijuana caregivers that allow marijuana use could lose Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.
While it’s hard to say exactly what use nursing home and hospice patients will make of medical marijuana, in Maine it’s their legal right to try anything that makes them feel better, knowing they won’t jeopardize funding for their facility.