marijuana leaves and oil

Editor’s Note: The governor approved the legislation March 21. It becomes effective July 1.

As a bill designed to expand access to medical cannabis heads to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk, associations representing assisted living operators in Virginia are looking for guidance on whether it applies to assisted living residents and their caregivers, as the Virginia chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws maintains.

SB 1719 allows for “registered agents” to pick up or receive delivery of medical cannabis — specifically, cannabidiol (CBD) oil and THC-A oil for people who physically are unable to do so for themselves. The bill language does not reference assisted living, but Virginia NORML said the bill applies to assisted living communities and hospices as well as home healthcare providers.

The legislation was passed unanimously in both the state House of Delegates and the state Senate. Northam has until March 26 to decide whether to sign it.

Virginia Assisted Living Association Executive Director Judy M. Hackler told McKnight’s Senior Living that the organization has contacted state regulators to see how the bill, if signed, will be implemented in long-term care settings.

“We have been telling our providers that we know that it’s coming, that all the laws are changing for all the states,” she said. “And so we’re asking them all to be proactive in developing company policies as far as what they want to have allowed and, of course, full disclosure to residents and staff. You’ve got to think about who is going to be administering it for the residents and whether there are going to be any side effects to the employees. …There need to be some safety measures in place.”

The Virginia Health Care Association / Virginia Center for Assisted Living also is taking a closer look at the legislation to see how assisted living communities could be affected, said Amy Hewett, CAE, the group’s vice president of strategy and communications.

“We have plans to meet with representatives of the Virginia Board of Pharmacy to learn more,” she said. Agents must register with the pharmacy board.

LeadingAge Virginia President and CEO Melissa Andrews said the bill is “a step toward our mission of ensuring positive aging for every Virginian.”

The organization, she added, “supports legislation that enables older adults to have access to all necessary prescribed medication, regardless of their physical ability or location. We are pleased that our legislature is taking this positive step and are confident that regulations will be promulgated to ensure the health, welfare and safety of residents within these communities.”

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