Older Americans are turning to Medical Marijuana more than ever, but there may still be some legal complications.
According to the American Academy of Neurology, a new study from the Dent Neurologic Institute evaluated senior patients 75 and older for the effectiveness of medical marijuana on chronic aches and pains. The study tracked 204 elderly patients who had been prescribed medical marijuana to deal with pain through New York State’s medical marijuana program and found that 7 out of 10 patients experienced some symptom relief, half said their chronic pain diminished, and 18 percent said they slept better.
With the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana use in many states, including California, many are turning to cannabis as a means to treat many chronic conditions and its use is increasing. A study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence suggests that increasing numbers of middle aged and older adults are using it, a lot—about 9 percent of U.S. adults between ages 50 and 64 used marijuana in the previous year, as did 2.9% of adults 65 and older.
Keep in mind, however, that the federal government still continues to treat cannabis like every other controlled substance and does not recognize the difference between medical and recreational uses—it is a Schedule I drug along with heroin.
As a result, be particularly wary if you are a marijuana user and decide to fly with cannabis. Within the U.S., it is illegal to carry marijuana in carry-on or checked baggage, and this includes infused products used for chronic pain such as Cannabidiol (CBD) oil. Although the TSA is not particularly focused on trying to search for illegal drugs, if they do find marijuana or other illegal drugs in the course of regular security screenings and procedures, it does refer the matter to law enforcement. Even if you are planning to carry it with you on an interstate road trip, transporting it across state lines is also illegal under federal law, even if you are going to another jurisdiction (e.g., Oregon), where it is legal.
Other complications in utilizing marijuana as part of your treatment can occur in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, which must adhere to regulations under state law and federal law. Many of these facilities err on the side of being more restrictive and do not have protocols in place to allow residents to continue to use marijuana in the course of their treatment.
Finally, given that the use of cannabis in the course of treating chronic conditions is relatively new, it is important to be very specific about your wishes regarding its use in your Advanced Health Care Directive. Specifically, if you want your agent to be able to pursue medical marijuana as a treatment option for you, you should indicate that they have authority to do so in your legal documents. Alternatively, if you are strongly opposed to the use of medical marijuana as a treatment option, then you should specify this in your legal documents. If you would like to review your current Advanced Health Care Directive, or if you have questions about creating an Advanced Health care Directive, please contact the Law Offices of Lisa C. Bryant, INC. at (408) 286-2122 for a complimentary estate plan review.
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