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Do Long Term Care Homes in My State Allow Medical Cannabis?

Emily Robertson
Seniors in care facility dressed up and laughing

Long term care homes may not accept your medical cannabis prescription. Even if your state is legalized.

Medical cannabis has been legal in some countries, such as Canada, for more than ten years. Yet, seniors still have trouble accessing this medicine when they are in a government, or privately run, care facility. There are also very few insurance companies that cover the cost of medical cannabis. Why is there a lag in providing consistent health care to seniors as they transition away from living independently?

Elderly Woman being helped by nurse

If I Go to a Home Can I Keep My Cannabis?

Senior citizens are vulnerable when it comes to medical care. It has been found that seniors, on average, are taking 10+ prescriptions every single day. And many of these are just to help manage the side effects of other prescriptions!  A dangerous cycle of over-medicating and never feeling better sometimes traps elderly patients. As a result, many are turning to cannabis. The consumption of cannabis in the elderly communities increased 250% between 2006 and 2013. This is despite the fact that legislation meant to disrupt cannabis consumption functions in many care homes. In Canada, the aging community is fortunate in that patients are entitled to whatever care necessary to live, no matter where that is. This is not the case in other geographical regions, such as the United States, where every long term care facility makes its own policies.

Is Cannabis a Good Choice for Seniors?

Every person tries cannabis treatment for their own reasons.  It has been the experience of many patients, that cannabis can replace multiple pharmaceutical prescriptions. In addition to treating pain, dystonia, inflammation, and muscle spasticity (common ailments in old age), cannabis improves cognitive functioning.  The other benefit of cannabis medicine is that there are no negative side effects. We should all understand, however, that not all pharmaceuticals can replace cannabis. While cannabis is a great choice and a giant leap toward better health, it is important to speak to your doctor before switching.

Elder hands of man counting out prescription pills

How Do I Find Out Which Care Facilities Allow Cannabis?

In the U.S. there isn’t a registry for homes that allow cannabis. We do know, however, that of the hundreds of nursing homes across the country, only three allow patients to access their medical cannabis treatment. These are: The Hebrew Home in New York City, Life Care Center of Reno in Nevada, and Anderson House in Seattle. Generally, these guidelines discourage smoking cannabis across the board. Still, some allow tinctures and edibles if onsite care personnel dose them out.

Nursing homes that don’t administer or allow cannabis aren’t necessarily to blame. Much of their ability to regulate medication relies on the federal government, through funding and legislation. If, for instance, Medicare funds a nursing home, it can’t administer cannabis to patients as cannabis is still federally illegal in the US.

The ethics of this is up for debate, of course, but it won’t go far. As long as the government continues to fund Medicare, which then funds nursing homes across the country, it can continue to prohibit the use of cannabis in homes for the elderly.

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State and federal laws even heavily regulate and control homes Medicare does not fund. This means that even if medical cannabis is legal in their state, laws governing nursing homes may still lay down administration roadblocks.

Emily Robertson

Emily Robertson has been writing freelance and contract work since 2011. She has written on a variety of topics, including travel writing of North America and the growing legalized cannabis industry across the globe. Robertson has a master’s degree in literature and gender studies, and brings this through in her writing by always trying to explore different perspectives. Born and raised in southwestern Ontario, Robertson moved to Glasgow, Scotland in 2016 to undergo her doctorate in Scottish Literature. She lives in the West End with her dog, Henley.

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