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California Hospital Wants to Be the First to Allow Medical Marijuana Use

Advocates want Marin General Hospital to follow Israel's lead, allowing patients access to medical cannabis.

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Israel’s hospitals, according to health care industry insiders, have pioneered the use of cannabis administration in hospital settings.

“I want to have Marin General be the first hospital in California to openly and transparently allow patients to use medical cannabis,” said Dr. Larry Bedard, who practiced emergency medicine as a former physician at Marin General.

Bedard isn’t some lone-nut calling for bake sessions in sterile hospitals. He wrote the rebuttal to the argument against Proposition 64, appearing on Nov. 8 ballot to legalize recreational marijuana in California for adults ages 21 and older. 

That proposed law, as well, allows adults to grow small amounts at home. Bedard’s motivation for promoting marijuana legalization centers upon the nation’s racist structures.

“Four times as many blacks and Latinos get arrested as whites with virtually the same use rates,” Bedard said. “If you want to reform the justice system, this is by far the easiest and most effective way.” As an emergency physician, Bedard says he knows marijuana is safer than alcohol.

Bedard served on the California Medical Association task force on marijuana which promotes legalization of cannabis. He recently sent a resolution proposing inpatient use of medical cannabis at Marin General to the hospital’s managers, his fellow board members and other interest parties. 

“I think it is a fantastic idea,” said Frederick Mayer, a retired Marin pharmacist and current head of Pharmacists Planning Services Inc., a nonprofit pharmaceutical education organization.

Mayer cites Israeli hospitals, which use cannabis in palliative care. He also highlights how marijuana is less addictive than traditional techniques used in pain management. 

Not everyone is gung-ho for pot. Marin Healthcare District board member Jennifer Rienks has “a lot of questions” and needs “to hear more about it.”  Bedard knows Marin General administrators have concern “that the federal government could/would retaliate by lifting the hospital’s Medicare provider number and the state could withhold Medi-Cal funding.” 

He points towards a federal budget amendment authored by California Reps. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican and Democrat Sam Farr which precludes the government from using federal funds to penalize patients, physicians and hospitals complying with state laws.

Bedard doesn’t imagine patients hitting bongs and dabs in Marin’s hospital, but, instead, using medical devices which are designed to administer cannabis. 

Alongside California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Duane Dauner, president of the California Hospital Association, wrote the argument against Proposition 64. They foresee more traffic fatalities, child access to marijuana and increased drug cartel activity. 

California hospitals, however, have already incorporated medical marijuana. Dr. Donald Abrams, an integrative cancer specialist at University of California San Francisco, gives regular talks about the benefits of alternative therapies, including medical marijuana and medicinal mushrooms.

“I believe people, especially those getting cancer treatments, really benefit from having both a Western diagnosis, as well as a whole-person approach,” Dr. Abrams says on the UCSF website.

“Good nutrition is an important part of the prescription, but other options are: fitness training, massage, acupuncture, herbs, biofeedback, meditation, guided imagery, integrative psychiatry, yoga, or tai chi.”

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