Use of Medical Marijuana in a California Assisted Living Facility
Medical marijuana is legal in the state of California. There is something of a footnote to the legality of medical marijuana in California. The use of marijuana is still illegal under federal law. This includes the use of marijuana for bona fide medicinal purposes. Having said that, there currently is movement within the federal government in the direction of legalization. Moreover, in recent years, there has been no movement by the federal government to overtly sanction the use of medical marijuana in California or in any of the other 50 states.
Inasmuch as the use of medical marijuana is legal under California law, assisted living facilities in the state are able to develop appropriate rules and procedures permitting residents to use prescribed medical marijuana. In this article, we provide an overview of California rules and regs as they pertain to the use of medical marijuana in assisted living communities.
Assisted Living, Medical Marijuana, and Medical Assessments
At the heart of rules and regs pertaining to the use of medical marijuana in a California assisted living facility are medical assessments. There are a number of issues associated with medical assessments that need to be borne in mind when it comes to the use of medical marijuana in an assisted living facility.
The medical use of marijuana must be recommended by a physician. The physician needs to make a determination that the person’s health would benefit from the use of marijuana. The use of medical marijuana can involve the treatment of a specified disease and illness as well as any other illness for which marijuana has the capacity to provide patient relief.
The person for whom marijuana has been recommended may designate a primary caregiver. A primary caregiver is defined as the individual “who has consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health, or safety” of that individual. An assisted care facility can be so designated, according to California law. Another individual can also be designated in this manner, a family member for example.
Both a resident of an assisted care facility and that person’s primary caregiver are allowed to possess or cultivate marijuana for the personal medical purposes of that resident. What this practically means is that an assisted living facility has the legal ability to store and manage access to medical marijuana in a manner similar to its handling of other types of medications. If an assisted care community, or other long-term care facility, permits a resident to use medical marijuana, the facility is not deemed to be in violation of California law.
There are some other requirements to bear in mind when it comes to the use of medical marijuana by a resident of an assisted living facility:
- Medical marijuana in smoking form remains subject to the smoking restrictions in other laws and regulations promulgated by the state of California.
- An assisted living facility must comply with applicable regulations regarding the storage, administration, and documentation of such of medical marijuana used by a resident.
- The determination of acceptance and retention of a resident is based on an assisted living facility’s ability to ensure the health and safety of the individual resident and the other residents in care.
- Assisted living communities continue to have discretion in evaluating a resident’s suitability for acceptance and retention and to stipulate conditions in the admission agreements.
Assisted Living, Medical Marijuana, and Medication Management
There are a number of medical marijuana and medication management issues that need to be considered in light of California law. The first of these issues pertain to a resident’s records.
California law dictates that a resident’s medical marijuana should be received and documented in the same manner as all other medications. A resident’s record in a facility must contain the report of the medical assessment as well as a record of any current centrally stored medications.
California law requires a physician’s recommendation that the person’s health would benefit from the use of marijuana in the treatment of a specified condition, or any other illness for which it provides relief. As a consequence, medical marijuana is treated as a medication. Assistance in self-administration of medical marijuana must be given per physician’s directions and in accordance with applicable regulations.
Because of existing medical and legal issues relating to medical marijuana dosages, assistance with the self-administration of medical marijuana may be provided only to residents who are able to determine and communicate their own personal needs for the medication. An exception may be considered if specific dosage and usage instructions are provided by the recommending physician.
An assisted living facility must ensure that no dangers or safety hazards are present related to any medical marijuana maintained or stored at the facility. If centrally stored, medical marijuana shall be stored with the same requirements as other medications. Information specified in the resident’s records relating to the storage of medical marijuana shall contain as much information as is provided by the recommending physician.
State law does not require specific dosage information for medical marijuana. As a consequence, medical marijuana is treated like a PRN medication. However, if specific instructions are provided by the recommending physician they shall be followed.
The requirements for accepting individuals who use medical marijuana are the same as with other medications. The individual who has a recommendation for medical marijuana would need a physician’s written recommendation that includes the following:
- Resident’s name
- Physician’s name
- Drug name
There is also optional information that may additionally be provided that includes:
- Recommended dosage
- Recommended hours between doses and the recommended maximum 24-hour dose
In addition to the requirements set forth a moment ago, a statement needs to be made in regard to the form in which the medical marijuana will be used. In addition, there needs to be a statement from a physician in regard to a resident’s ability or inability to self-administer medical marijuana.
A final note on the use of medical marijuana in an assisted living community in California. The regulatory prohibition against smoking where oxygen is in use covers all smoking, including, but not limited to, the smoking of tobacco, herbs, and medical marijuana.
If you are considering moving into an assisted living community, or if you are the adult child of an aging parent who might be contemplating a move to assisted living, you need to fully understand a facility’s policies regarding the use of medical marijuana if a prospective resident does use this drug. You don’t want to face any surprise regarding the use of medical marijuana after a contract has been signed with an assisted living community.