Pilot project could make medical marijuana more accessible to seniors

A new initiative called The Commonwealth Project, based in Massachusetts, aims to integrate medical cannabis into mainstream healthcare for older adults.

“People 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of cannabis use, but they are using it to treat diseases of aging, [for] “relief,” Howard Kessler, the group’s founder, told Fox News.

Medical Marijuana is legal in 37 states, four U.S. territories, and Washington, D.C.

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However, it is not federally legal, meaning doctors cannot prescribe cannabis.

“I’ve talked to many doctors who say their patients ask them five times a day, ‘I’d like to try [it].’ And the doctor says, “I think you should do it.” But I’m no help,” William Van-Faasen, former CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, told Fox News.

Most states require documentation for medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana is not federally legal, meaning doctors cannot prescribe cannabis. (iStock)

The compassionate use law allows health care providers to write recommendations for the substance instead of traditional prescriptions.

“Doctors need to know the benefits of cannabis on the lives of seniors,” Keith Myers, CEO of MorseLife Health System, a senior living community based in Palm Beach, Florida, told Fox News.

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“They need to understand that this should be part of the medication regimen that they are making recommendations for.”

“It’s the Wild West. Consumers are left to their own devices.”

Even with informed doctors, older adults may face barriers when trying to access cannabis treatment.

“It’s the Wild West. Consumers are on their own,” Marylou Sudders, former Massachusetts HHS secretary, told Fox News.

Dispensaries often don’t have doctors or pharmacists on site, and the quality of cannabis can vary from location to location.

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“Think about what it’s like when they want to try it,” Kessler said. “When you go to the clinic, they’re not doctors or health professionals. They’re not experts… So you don’t get advice. There’s no follow-up.”

Some groups say increased regulation is needed before expanding access to medical marijuana.

It’s important to be aware of different formulations, dosages and delivery systems, experts cautioned. (iStock)

“There are literally hundreds of thousands of different formulations that you could think of,” Kevin Sabet, president and CEO of the nonprofit Smart Approaches to Marijuana in New York, told Fox News.

“You really have to pay attention to the dosage, the delivery system.”

Kessler’s pilot project in Massachusetts would allow access to medical cannabis through a payer-provider system like Medicare Advantage.

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