A California hospital has taken steps to allow patients to use medical marijuana at its facility. It's the first hospital in the state to formally do so.
The board of Marin Healthcare District, which owns Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae, Calif., approved a resolution Tuesday that asks staff to study clinical use of medical marijuana. The resolution begins a process that would permit open medical marijuana use in edible form at the 173-bed hospital.
Medical marijuana is already used at California hospitals, but physicians and nurses have adopted a “don't ask, don't tell policy,” said Dr. Larry Bedard, a Marin Healthcare District board member and retired emergency physician who introduced the resolution. Family members will bring edible medical marijuana to patients in the hospital but staff doesn't acknowledge it, he said.
California hospitals are likely apprehensive to allow medical marijuana use within their walls because it's a state, not federal law, Bedard said. “Hospitals are afraid the federal government will revoke their Medicare provider license.”
Other states have issued laws that protect hospital staff if patients use medical marijuana on site. Maine passed a law that protects nurses from criminal punishment if they administer medical marijuana to eligible patients. Connecticut protects hospital staff from criminal punishment if they allow patients to have access to medical marijuana at hospitals but staff cannot necessarily administer it.
The Marin board has said it first wants staff to be educated on the clinical use of marijuana because physician knowledge about medical marijuana is limited, Bedard said. Physicians are often unaware of the potency of marijuana and what to prescribe, he said. California's Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, which will go into effect Jan. 1, 2018, will create a comprehensive licensing system.
Since smoking is banned in hospitals, marijuana in edible or vapor forms will likely be permitted at Marin General if plans go through, Bedard said.