Can I Smoke Marijuana in My Retirement Home?
Published on 7/20/21
The proliferation of states legalizing medical marijuana is nothing short of impressive. 36 states and four territories have now approved comprehensive and publicly available medical marijuana programs. One segment of the population that is taking advantage of the increasing legality is the elderly. Seniors were the fastest-growing cannabis demographic in the country a few years ago, with marijuana use among those 55 and older increasing by 53% between 2013 and 2014. An additional study published last year corroborated those facts by noting the dramatic increase in cannabis use by those over the age of 65 from 2015 to 2018.
Why Seniors Use Cannabis
With what we know about how cannabis can offer relief and treat the symptoms of such a wide range of ailments, it is no surprise that this segment of the population is getting on board with marijuana use. Pain (chronic or acute), inflammation, muscle loss, anxiety, insomnia, depression and lack of appetite are just a few of the issues that adults face later in life that can benefit from the cannabinoids found in marijuana. Cognitive illnesses like memory loss, dementia and Alzheimers disease can also be treated with cannabis. Many seniors take other types of medication that cause severe side effects that can be eased by cannabis use.
Cannabis and Federal Law
While legalization at the state level is progressing and the majority of states in the country have legalized marijuana in some capacity, the situation at the federal level remains archaic. Cannabis is still federally illegal and classified as a Schedule I narcotic, and the federal government has long been involved in the affairs of nursing homes from both regulatory and financial positions. Vast numbers of nursing homes receive money from the government and administrators are justifiably reluctant to do anything that could put funds they receive from programs like Medicare and Medicaid in jeopardy, even if they are located in states where marijuana is legal.
Some states are helping their elderly medical marijuana users by driving a protective wedge between the federal government and care facilities. In Massachusetts and other states around the country, the Department of Public Health now allows staff members at nursing homes, retirement homes, hospices, and other care facilities to register as medical marijuana caregivers so they can access and safely provide the medication for residents. In states where medical cannabis is legal, residents with prescriptions can technically use medical marijuana, but their facility might have rules that forbid its use on-premises.
Some retirement facilities, like The Hebrew Home of Riverdale, a skilled nursing facility just north of New York City, allows its residents to enjoy the benefits of medical cannabis, but its use is restricted to orally administered medication because it is a non-smoking facility. In order to remain compliant under federal law, the facility cannot purchase or store medical marijuana, but it does provide individualized lock boxes for residents to store their cannabis medicine. They must purchase their cannabis on their own from a state-certified dispensary. Residents who cannot travel use Skype for consultations and free delivery from a local dispensary.
Consuming Cannabis in a Care Facility
Most assisted living facilities have no-smoking policies that cover their entire campuses, so any smoking would have to be done discreetly, which could be dangerous. This is especially true for hospices and nursing homes that have elevated levels of medical care requiring oxygen and other flammable gasses on site.
Retirement communities are often less strict, and smoking cannabis in individual units or rooms is condoned. Smoking rooms or designated smoking areas still exist and may be used for smoking cannabis if the facility does not have any rules forbidding it. Some retirement homes even have cannabis clubs that meet regularly to discuss the latest trends and examine new products. Other retirement communities explicitly allow vaping in private rooms and outdoors. Vaping is perhaps the best way to enjoy marijuana in a retirement home if the act of inhaling is important to the patient in order to avoid a hallway full of cannabis smoke.
Edibles are also becoming more popular among the elderly due to their effectiveness and ease of use. Those who are able can cook with cannabis or make cannabis-infused drinks. Pills, sublingual tinctures, and cannabis oils are other options for seniors seeking relief from what ails them. They can easily be integrated into the normal prescription routines that the elderly must often follow.
Do you live in a retirement home and consume cannabis? How do you do it? Are there others in the facility who also find relief from medical marijuana? Share your situation in the comments section below!