P.E.I. medical pot policies need changing, says advocate

A medical marijuana advocate is disappointed with Health PEI's rules around administering prescribed cannabis in Island hospitals and publicly-run long-term care facilities.

'This is their medication, why is there a separate policy and procedure?'

Smoking of dried cannabis for medical marijuana patients is only permitted off hospital property. This is part of P.E.I.'s Smoke-Free Places Act and is similar to practices at other Canadian hospitals. (Laura Meader/CBC)

An Island medical marijuana advocate is disappointed with some of Health PEI's policies around administering medical marijuana at hospitals and government-run nursing homes.

Dennis MacKenzie is hoping that policies can be changed to put cannabis on par with other prescribed medications in Health PEI facilities.

In an emailed statement to CBC, Health PEI says prescribed medical cannabis — both dried or oil forms —  will be safely and securely stored.

Staff are not permitted to administer or assist in the administration of medical cannabis — the patient is entirely responsible for dosing and consuming the product themselves.— Health PEI

"Staff ​will bring the medical cannabis to the patient so that it can be self-administered. Staff are not permitted to administer or assist in the administration of medical cannabis - the patient is entirely responsible for dosing and consuming the product themselves," Health PEI said in its statement.

The statement says medical cannabis oil can be consumed in the facility, but consumption of the dried form must follow P.E.I.'s Smoke-Free Places Act. Hospital patients must leave the property to smoke, while residents of long-term care must be outside in a designated location, though not necessarily off the property.

'This is their medication'

​Dennis MacKenzie — a medical marijuana advocate on Prince Edward Island — said there is still too much of a stigma around medical marijuana.

"This is their medication, why is there a separate policy and procedure being made for this?" he said. 

Dennis MacKenzie shows the dried cannabis and capsules that could be prescribed to medical marijuana patients. (Laura Meader/CBC)

"You know a lot of times, people that are in there have mobility issues, they are not able to administer their own medications,"  MacKenzie said. "Those folk actually have to find other people to come into the care facilities to assist them."

He said he hopes changes can be made to the policies to assist those who have prescription cannabis.

"So for me it is just, it's about really understanding that these people are here for a reason. We need to give them whatever care they need."

Cannabis capsules could be stored and delivered in a P.E.I. hospital but it would be up to the patient to take the correct dose with no assistance from staff. (Laura Meader/CBC)

A private company which runs a number of nursing homes on Prince Edward Island is taking a different approach.

P.E.I. Seniors Homes' policies treat medical marijuana like any other medication — staff give it out in the same way, keeping track of dosing and administration. 

Our policy with medical marijuana is really the same policy that we have with any prescription drug— Jason Lee, P.E.I. Seniors Homes

P.E.I. Seniors Homes runs The Garden Home, Whisperwood Villa, and Lady Slipper Villa, a community care facility.  

"Our policy with medical marijuana is really the same policy that we have with any prescription drug," said Jason Lee, an administrator for Whisperwood Villa in Charlottetown.

"So a drug that is prescribed by a doctor for any of our residents...we take a lot of responsibility for storing the drug, making sure the prescription is filled in a timely manner and we administer the medications as prescribed."

Staff in the PEI Seniors Homes group of long term care facilities will administer medical cannabis, as they would any other prescribed medication. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Lee said that he was surprised that their policy and Health PEI's policy were different.

"We haven't come across any reasons to date why we wouldn't treat this as we do any other prescribed medication."

Changes in cannabis policies expected

He said they only have a handful of residents who have been prescribed medical marijuana in PEI Seniors Homes facilities.

He expects to see an increase in pot-related policies as recreational marijuana legislation is expected to pass in Canada this summer.

"We expect to see more prescribed medical marijuana in the coming years," Lee said.

With files from Laura Meader