Marin General Hospital considers pot use in rooms

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Marin General Hospital has taken the first step towards integrating the use of medical marijuana into its practice.

On Tuesday, the Marin Healthcare District Board voted 2-0 with three members abstaining, on a resolution regarding patient use at the hospital, beginning with educational public forums in January 2017, supported by the hospital, the hospital district, Marin Medical Society, and Marin County Pharmacists Association.

The resolution was introduced by retired emergency medicine physician Larry Bedard, who also served on a California Medical Association task force on marijuana that led to the association recommending the legalization of cannabis.

“The vast majority of doctors don’t know how cannabinoids work. There’s a real need for education,” he said.

Bedard expects the forums to be attended by physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and potential patients. A task force will be created, also including attorneys, followed by the development of policies and procedures.

The biggest hangup, Bedard said, is that cannabis is still illegal under federal law, and the hospital is rightly concerned.

The issue for doctors and pharmacists is currently not being able to discern the potency of prescribed cannabis.

That is poised to change Jan. 1, 2018, when the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MRSA), passed in October, takes affect. MRSA is a package of laws that will regulate virtually every aspect of the cannabis industry.

Medical cannabis has already been used at Marin General and other hospitals for years, in what Bedard calls “don’t ask, don’t tell medicine.” A family member may bring in cookies, for example, and two hours later the nurse notices the patient is feeling better, but doesn’t ask what was in the cookies.

As an ER doctor, Bedard has participated in scenarios and heard anecdotal stories of patients being helped with seizures and other conditions by medical cannabis. For patients dying of cancer, it alleviates nausea and helps with sleep.

“As a physician, the goal is to help people. The conception is that people are just getting stoned. Doctors need education. It’s been used for millions of years and is safer than many of the medications we currently prescribe,” he said.

Going forward Bedard plans to present the resolution to other organizations beyond Marin, beginning with the California Emergency Physicians where he is a partner.

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