North Bay Business Journal

Monday, May 28, 2012, 5:30 am

A dying patient’s request for medical cannabis

By Yvonne Baginski

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    Last August, I was called to help a man with his dying wishes.  He had three.  The first was to go to Zen Hospice in San Francisco for his final days.  The second was that a Tibetan Llama accompany him with prayers and chanting for the last part of his journey, and the third was for medical cannabis so that he could reduce his reliance on prescribed opiates and die with a “clear mind.”

    In the four days left, I was only able to grant his third wish. 

    And though I’ve been with many people in the last part of their lives, it was the first time someone had asked for cannabis.

    Frankly, I didn’t know what to do, how to get it, or where to even find a dispensary.  Most of what I knew I only gleaned from newspapers and magazines.  Being a part of the establishment had mummified me from alternative realities. 

    First, I asked his doctor who told me, “I have no problem with it,” but declined to write a letter of recommendation because. I then asked the hospice what to do, and they referred me to a doctor who would write a letter, but since this man was bedbound and unable to be present, the letter had to be written as mine … since, I would be picking up the medication.

     I wondered what risks would I be exposed to in purchasing, transporting and finally, giving the medication to the care provider?  I had no idea.  My gut told me that surely, no one would arrest someone bringing medicine in act of mercy … .but, I wasn’t really confident.

     When I visited the marijuana prescribing physician, he couldn’t recommend a dispensary, so I asked someone in the waiting room.  He told me that the best “edibles” in town were at one place, and if I wanted a good selection of tinctures, I could go to another.  I had no idea what he was talking about … after all, a joint is a joint…right?

     I knew nothing of protocol, rules, or what to expect inside a dispensary.  When I entered, a young man behind a desk asked to see my letter, and checked my driver’s license.  I was then allowed into a room where, behind a counter, stood three people, ready to serve me. 

    Tea?  Cookies?  Cream?  Smoke?  Tincture?  What form would I like?  What strength?  What purpose? 

    I was asked lots of questions, but mostly I was overwhelmed.  I had no idea what to buy, or what the difference was between potencies and names.  Finally, I left with a small brown bag filled with suckers, two brownies, lozenges and a tincture.  They threw in a small baggie of smoke … just in case, he might want to smoke it.

     My car reeked of pot.  And, I was a little nervous that if I got pulled over for any reason, I could be in real trouble.

    When I got to the board and care home, I handed everything over to a worker.  He took it without comment, and I left.

    I don’t know whether any of the cannabis was given to the man, he died two days later.  I have no idea whether he died with a “clear mind,” or whether he stayed on the opiates to the end.  I wasn’t there.

    But, since then, I’ve been asking a lot of questions to others in the care giving professions about their experiences with cannabis, and everyone is hungry for more information.

    The Sonoma Section on Aging, which is a membership organization of people who work in the senior care industry, is sponsoring a panel on Medical Cannabis on Wednesday, June 20, from 9-11 a.m. at the Scottish Rite Temple, 600 Acacia Lane (at Highway 12) in Santa Rosa.  Panel participants include, Richard Lenson, M.D., Mitcho Thompson of Peace in Medicine, Sarah Shrader of Americans for Safe Access and attorney E.D. Lerman

     This event is open to professionals in the senior care industry, and the public.

    Yvonne Baginski is program director for the Sonoma Section on Aging and publisher of Born To Age, the Sonoma/Marin Senior Care Directory.

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    1. May 28, 2012, 12:14 pm

      by Rick Rosio

      I would encourage my fellow providers to develop a program where any HOSPICE CLIENT who wishes to use cannabis therapy while in hospice should have free excess .
      At the end of life cannabis will provide closure and allow diginity for the patient and family.
      No one in hospice should have to pay for their cannabis.

    2. June 12, 2012, 2:20 pm

      by Concerned in Sonoma

      While I support Yvonne and the compassion she has shown, she is not helping the medical cannabis movement. In order to gain acceptance we must work within the current rules and guidelines (even if we do not agree), by working around rules and guidelines that have been established we only hurt the progress that has been made.

      Any medical-cannabis facility within Sonoma County, has strict rules and guidelines regarding the redistribution of medicine. Many doctors are willing to write recommendations for patients with mobility issues, some even make house calls.

      The only reason, I bring attention to subject is the harsh repercussions that could have happened. The facility serving Yvonne the medicine could’ve been shut-down, and Yvonne could have found herself in trouble as well. The more we follow the rules and guidelines established, the better it is for everyone.

    3. May 2, 2014, 4:22 pm

      by Cannabis Evangelist

      Yvonne was acting in compliance with CA Health and Safety Code 11362.5 by being a caregiver for the patient. Caregivers are used when the medical cannabis patient cannot make it to the collective in person.

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