Recently, Colorado passed a medical marijuana law. It is now legal to posses and consume marijuana for medical purposes with a prescription. The person that is prescribed the marijuana is then given a card they carry around with them that states they can consume the product legally.
My drive to work is about 6 miles down one of the main roads on Denver. There is at least one “dispensary” every block during the entire drive. It is a big business.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not a prude about the whole thing. If it helps, and you have a genuine medical condition that it can help and keep you comfortable, then great, have at it.
Recently we have been having patients coming to the hospital with their card in hand, weed in pocket and ready to smoke. Most of these have been for chronic pain issues; they come in for surgery and are given large doses of narcotics for the surgical pain. They insist that it is their right to have their marijuana along with the narcotics.
Unfortunately, the hospital was not prepared for this. There is not a policy in place on how to handle this when it is happening. Obviously, smoking anything in the hospital is not allowed, so the patients have to go outdoors to smoke. But it is illegal in Denver to smoke on hospital grounds, so the patients have to go across the street to smoke. This puts them at risk by having to cross busy streets. We try to discourage this by offering nicotine patches and gum for cigarette smokers, but…what do we offer pot smokers?
For those that have liquid or pill forms of marijuana, the hospital has a policy that before you can take any of your home medications in the hospital, it must be confiscated and sent to the pharmacy to verify what the medication is, and then an order is written by the physician that the patient may take their own medications.
First of all, who is going to voluntarily give up their marijuana to be sent somewhere for testing? Then, how is the pharmacy going to verify what it is? And finally, how many physicians are actually going to write that order? I did a quick literature search before I wrote this and found little research about now THC interacts with other medications (before I get a bunch of hate mail, it was a just a quick search, not a complete search).
This is an issue that will just keep increasing over the coming years, not only in Denver but nationwide. Now is the time for hospitals and providers to start planning for how they are going to handle these issues when they arise.
Rob Cameron is currently a staff nurse in a level II trauma center. He has primarily been an ED nurse for most of his career, but he has also been a nurse manager for Surgical Trauma and Telemetry unit. He has worked in Med/Surg, Critical Care, Hospice, Rehab, an extremely busy cardiology clinic and pretty much anywhere he's been needed.
Prior to his career in nursing, Rob worked in healthcare finance and management. Rob feels this experience has given him a perspective on nursing that many never see. He loves nursing because of all the options he has within the field. He is currently a grad student working on an MSN in nursing leadership, and teaches clinicals at a local university.
Away from work, Rob spends all of his time with his wife and daughter. He enjoys cycling and Crossfit. He is a die hard NASCAR fan. Sundays you can find Rob watching the race with his daughter.
By Rob Cameron