​A new study in JAMDA details the success a New York skilled nursing facility (SNF) experienced when it implemented a medical cannabis program that is both compliant with federal law and approved by the state.

JAMDA is the official journal of AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.

In “Medical Cannabis in the Skilled Nursing Facility: A Novel Approach to Improving Symptom Management and Quality of Life,” the authors who conducted the research at the facility outline how a medical policy and procedure they used resulted in the “safe use and administration of cannabis for residents with a qualifying diagnosis.”

To meet the requirements of state and federal statutes, the SNF’s policy requires that residents purchase their own cannabis directly from a state-certified dispensary.

According to the report, after the cannabis program began in 2016, the facility provided educational sessions for residents and distributed a medical cannabis fact sheet that was also made available to family members.

“To date, 10 residents have participated in the program, and seven have been receiving medical cannabis for over a year,” the report said. The age range for participants runs from 62 to 100. “Of the 10 participants, six qualified for the program due to a chronic pain diagnosis, two due to Parkinson’s disease, and one due to both diagnoses. One resident is participating in the program for a seizure disorder,” the authors said.

Most residents who use cannabis for pain management said that it has lessened the severity of their chronic pain. This, in turn, has resulted in opioid dosage reductions and an improved sense of well-being.

“Those individuals receiving cannabis for Parkinson’s reported mild improvement with rigidity complaints.

The patient with seizure disorder has experienced a marked reduction in seizure activity with the cannabis therapy,” the report said.

In reviewing the program, researchers stressed the potential for the therapeutic benefit associated with medical cannabis and said it should be viewed as an important additional tool among the clinical therapeutic options for symptom management of many common nursing facility complaints.

They also noted that “much like every decision in medicine, the clinician must always weigh the risks and benefits of any clinical intervention.”