Marijuana and the Elderly
In Honor of National 4/20 Day
There are many divisions in our nation, one of the biggest being the debates over legalized marijuana. Regardless of where you stand, there are many reasons as to why people feel the way they do. For some, the social stigma is the concern. For those born in the late 60s and early 70s, they missed the life of a teen in the 1960s when it was all about freedom and the importance of being a flower child (not to mention the great music). Instead, the teens in the 1980s replaced flower child with big hair held in place by massive amounts of Aqua Net hairspray. The British Invasion was still alive and well, it’s just that The Beatles were replaced by the second generation of John Lennon’s own son, Julian Lennon, along with The Human League, Culture Club and Spandau Ballet. In between those decades, The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 was signed into law and classified marijuana along with heroin and LSD as a Schedule I drug, which meant it was believed to have the relatively highest abuse potential and no accepted medical use. Of course, that’s all changed – at least on the state level in 20 states.
Statistics now show that members of the older generation are using marijuana. In 2002, and according to The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2.7 percent of adults between the ages of 50 and 59, use marijuana. By 2011, that number grew to 6.3 percent of adults between the ages of 50 and 59 used the drug. That number continues to rise each year.
Interestingly enough, evidence points to much of this use being social rather than medical. This begs the question of whether it should be legalized across the board. For now, many are working to at least put the option of legalized marijuana into the game.
For many, medical marijuana is the one thing that eases the pain associated with cancer, migraines, glaucoma, nerve pain, muscle spasms and a host of other illnesses and symptoms. In fact, there are several groups being founded by seniors that are gaining national attention. But what happens when the laws vary, and paying for a prescription isn’t possible? Remember, it’s still classified as a Schedule I drug as far as the federal government is concerned. That means Medicare won’t pay for it.
In late July 2013, Governor Maggie Hassan signed a bill that allows those who are seriously ill in New Hampshire to access medical marijuana. Currently, New Hampshire is in the process of rulemaking and continues with its various implementation avenues. The new law will allow for at least four non profit alternative treatment programs and dispensaries. While it’s unlikely they will be available until early 2015, some believe at least one or two of those dispensaries will be in use. A patient registry is also being required, though it’s unclear what kind of fee structures and rules will be put into place.
There will remain those who believe marijuana should remain illegal and of course, just as many will insist its medical benefits far outweigh the demands of those unfamiliar with the sense of pain relief marijuana can provide those most in need.
The one sure thing is this controversial unfolding will continue in the coming years. In the meantime, our firm continues to monitor the various changes and shifts in the law and how they affect the elderly, Medicaid and Medicare coverage.