John O'Connor illustration
McKnight’s Editorial Director John O’Connor

Following a White House push, the Drug Enforcement Administration is working to shift marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule III drug.

This move marks a significant shift from a strict anti-drug stance of the past, famously symbolized by the Reagan era’s  “Just Say No” campaign.

In a way, the change would allow marijuana to hang out with a more respectable crowd. Under the reclassification, marijuana would share the shelf with drugs that include ketamine, anabolic steroids and testosterone. This sounds a lot less alarming than being grouped with heroin and LSD, which currently is the case.

This, ahem, budding shift in our nation’s drug policy could have notable implications for senior living operators — and the residents they serve.

During a LeadingAge member policy update call earlier this week, Vice President of Legal Affairs Jon Lips said the organization’s analysis found the shift could lead to medical uses not currently available.

While a growing number of states have legalized pot for medical or recreational purposes, it remains illegal under federal law. That’s more than a bit problematic for operators, who risk the loss of Medicare and Medicaid payments if they color outside the federal lines.

Not surprisingly, the association is seeking confirmation from the federales that providers who allow the use of the drug in places where it is legal will not be harassed or criminally charged.

At this point, the best way for senior living operators to prepare remains somewhat murky. But hey, stocking up on Doritos might not be a bad place to start.

John O’Connor is editorial director for McKnight’s Senior Living and its sister media brands, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, which focuses on skilled nursing, and McKnight’s Home Care. Read more of his columns here.