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Marin General Hospital will study the feasibility of allowing patients at the hospital to use medicinal marijuana when it is recommended by their physician.

The hospital is embarking on the investigation at the request of the publicly elected Marin Healthcare District board. The board voted 2-0 Tuesday night, with three members abstaining, to ask for the study.

In an email statement, Marin General CEO Lee Domanico, said, “Marin General Hospital will consult with members of the medical staff, legal counsel and other experts to produce a response to this request.”

Domanico said he expects to provide an estimated timeline for a response at the board’s October meeting. He declined further comment.

Dr. Larry Bedard, a longtime district board member, brought the issue to the board in the form of a resolution.

“It’s time for people to come out of the cannabis closet,” said Bedard, a retired emergency medicine physician who used to work at Marin General.

In his resolution, Bedard said that many Marin residents use medical cannabis on an outpatient basis for cancer, AIDS, chronic pain, diabetic neuropathy, seizures, PTSD, irritable bowel, migraines, menstrual cramps, palliative care and numerous other conditions.

His resolution notes that in June 2015, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article titled “Cannabinoids for Medical Use,” “which found medicinal cannabis is significantly helpful with chronic pain, neuropathic pain, muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis and paraplegia, cancer chemotherapy nausea, and AIDS wasting syndrome.”


Bedard originally planned to introduce a resolution simply calling on Marin General to allow the open use of medical cannabis, but he opted for a more modest proposal after the Drug Enforcement Administration decided last month that marijuana will remain a Schedule 1 drug, a category that includes drugs considered to be the most dangerous such as heroin and LSD.

“As an emergency physician, I know marijuana is so less harmful than alcohol,” Bedard said.

The resolution passed Tuesday even though several board members were not supportive.

Harris “Hank” Simmonds, one of the district board members who abstained from the vote, said, “I think the timing is very bad; after the election we will know better which direction we’re going to go.”

Simmonds was referring to Proposition 64, the initiative on the Nov. 8 ballot that will give California voters the opportunity to legalize recreational use of marijuana in the state. Simmonds said that if Proposition 64 passes there could be a “change in people’s emotional disposition to the substance.”

“I think that’s what we need,” Simmonds said. “It’s a very hot topic.”

Simmonds said that prior to Tuesday’s meeting he received emails from several Marin doctors who are opposed to the use of medical cannabis at Marin General. He also said that Dr. Michael Kwok, president-elect of the Marin Medical Society, spoke in opposition to the idea at a previous district board meeting. Kwok declined to comment Wednesday.


Bedard said he has spoken with several other members of the Marin Medical Society board who support the use of medicinal cannabis.

A major concern is that if Marin General sanctions use of medical cannabis, the federal government might deny Medicare reimbursements to the hospital and the state could withhold Medi-Cal funding.

Bedard believes the hospital would be protected from such retaliation by a 2015 federal budget amendment that bars the government from using federal funds to penalize patients, physicians and hospitals that are complying with state law.

But at Tuesday’s meeting, district board member Ann Sparkman raised another regulatory issue. Sparkman, deputy campus counsel for health affairs at the University of California, San Francisco, said the budget amendment wouldn’t preclude the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) from pulling Marin General’s accreditation.

JCAHO is a private nonprofit organization with no official connection to government, but hospitals rely on JCAHO’s accreditation to assure the public they’re meeting quality standards.

“It is going to take dialogue with JCAHO and other organizations,” Bedard said.

District board member Jennifer Rienks, who cast the other vote in favor of the resolution, said, “This is really just a first step to look at whether this is something that is feasible and to see how the medical staff feels. There are a lot of feasibility issues.”


Even if the Marin Healthcare District board decides that medical cannabis use should be allowed at Marin General, a big hurdle would remain. The hospital’s day-to-day operations are overseen by a separate board, which was originally appointed by the district board but which now operates semiautonomously.

“We don’t set policy for what happens at the hospital,” Rienks said. “But we also have a responsibility, since it is the public’s hospital, to make sure the hospital is offering services that the public might be interested in.”

Bedard said his resolution set no deadline for the administration to report back. He envisions the hospital hosting three or four educational forums on the medical use of cannabis next spring that would offer physicians, nurses and pharmacists continuing education credits. He said the forums would also give medical providers an opportunity to interact with Marin residents who are using cannabis for health problems.

Bedard said, “We’re simply asking the hospital and the medical staff to make an informed, educated policy.”

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: Marin General To Study Medical Marijuana Use On Site
Author: Richard Halstead
Contact: 415-883-8600
Photo Credit: Jeff Chiu
Website: Marin Independent Journal