Seniors and Marijuana as Medicine
MARCH 15, 2017
BY TOM EDATHIKUNNEL
For decades, cannabis has been portrayed as an illicit substance associated with burnouts and addicts, one that clouds mental performance and drains ambition. However, long-standing opinions are beginning to change as more research continues to demonstrate the medical benefits of THC and CBD oil with regard to such debilitating conditions as Alzheimer’s. Senior citizens, who lived during the time of marijuana’s demonizing prohibition, ironically may be the fastest-growing demographic that can benefit the most from its medicinal properties.
Seizing the opportunity to serve this underrepresented group, Etain, one of the five registered medical marijuana suppliers in New York State, is seeking to target nursing homes and elderly patients. According to Etain’s homepage, this family-run, women-owned business is “committed to manufacturing clean, safe, and consistent medical marijuana products for patients in New York State.”
Launched in July 2014, New York’s medical marijuana program has struggled to attract new patients. With only 863 registered practitioners and 13,829 patients currently enrolled, officials estimate that half that number will continue to be repeat customers.
Nursing homes in New York City, like Hebrew Home at Riverdale, is offering elderly residents the opportunity to use medical marijuana as an alternative to prescription drugs. Staff members do not store or administer any treatment, but residents are allowed to purchase certified THC and CBD products and keep them in locked boxes in their rooms.
In Colorado, the majority of patients who are forty and older report using marijuana for sleep-related ailments, says Tim Cullen of Colorado Harvest Company. Cullen, a high-school biology teacher, turned to cultivating marijuana to remedy the Crohn’s disease that afflicted him and his father.
“Patients in nursing homes are less likely to buy weed to smoke,” Cullen says. “We see more products like topical creams, transdermal patches and low-dose capsules that are private and discreet.”
In an attempt to gain more support, eligibility for medical marijuana treatment in New York State was expanded to include “chronic pain” as a qualifying condition in December 2016. Other qualifying conditions include cancer, HIV infection or AIDS, ALS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and neuropathies.
Alongside the wider range of medical conditions, regulatory amendments now allow authorized nurse practitioners to certify patients for medical marijuana in New York. Treatment methods are strictly defined by state law to include only liquid or oil for oromusosal sprays, liquid for vaporization and capsules for oral administration. Currently no smoking or edible forms of medical marijuana are approved in New York State.
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