Joel S. Goldman is an attorney who exclusively represents assisted living facilities in California. On average for the past 2 to 3 years, he has received a call a month from a client with a medical marijuana question. Goldman says that when it comes down to it, the facility is owned by his clients, which gives them the final say on what they allow on their premises.
There's also the fact that the unregulated nature of marijuana circumvents established protocol for handling medications in assisted living facilities.
"The rules for storing medication, with respect to labeling, dosage, destruction of expired meds -- none of these normal rules really work very well when the medication is marijuana," Goldman said.
He suggests that facilities looking to accommodate their residents can request exceptions from DSS and ultimately implement more individual care plans. According to Weston, DSS does consider any requests for regulatory exception, including those involving medical marijuana on a case by case basis, "if the intent can be met by a proposed alternative," he said.
Despite these workarounds, the topic is still a fearful one to broach. Even when facilities incorporate medical marijuana in their programs, they're often staying as low key as possible to not attract extra attention and minimize the possibility of facing criminal sanctions.
Several administrators running California facilities who had allowed residents to use medical marijuana, or at least considered it, declined being interviewed for this article, stating that they didn't want to draw attention from the federal government which could lead to possible charges.
But Liz McDuffie, founder of the Medical Cannabis Caregivers Directory in Pasadena, is ambitiously facilitating an educational endeavor familiarizing facility administrators with the benefits of medical marijuana, all within state law.
McDuffie, who has been a marijuana educator and advocate for decades, received approval from DSS in 2011 to teach a class under the department's continuing education program for Adult Residential Facility Administrator Licensing and Re-Certification.
The class, titled "California's Medical Marijuana Program As It Relates to Adult Residential Care Facility Access" provides four hours of credit toward the Continuing Education requirement for facility administrators and covers how Title 22 Regulations, which govern State Licensed Residential Care Facilities, support the ARF Client's participation in California's Medical Marijuana Program.
The class teaches administrators delivery, ingestion and storage options as well as how to recognize legal marijuana collectives and cooperatives within compliance of state and local law.
Though it is aimed at ARFs, whose residents range from 18 to 55 years of age, it's a first step towards progressing to reach seniors in assisted living facilities, nursing homes and hospice care.