Florida nursing home denies use of medical marijuana by chronic pain patient

Home says it believes federal law prohibits drug

ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. - A Pasco County senior citizen and her son say the nursing home where she lives is denying her potential pain relief, by refusing to allow her to have the medical marijuana she has a legal prescription to take.

The controversy could affect residents of long-term care facilities throughout Florida. 

“You should see the condition she's in. It’s horrible,” said Bert Greene, describing his mother Charlotte Simpson. “She's got uncontrollably shaking, excruciating pain.”

Simpson is confined to a wheelchair and suffers Parkinson’s Disease, arthritis and other ailments.

“She's tried everything that there is to try,” Greene said.

Simpson resides at Zephyrhills Health and Rehab Center, which is operated by Adventist Health System…the same company that owns Florida Hospital.

Greene said after medical marijuana became legal in Florida, a doctor prescribed it for his mother and she applied for a compassionate use permit.

“When she was finally approved, and the medicine was delivered, they gave it to me and told me I had to take it home with me,” Greene said.

Nobody from the home would speak on camera, but a spokesperson sent a statement saying:

"Our top priority is the care, safety and comfort of our patients. Like all health care facilities in Florida, and in any other state that permits the use of medical marijuana, we are seeking to balance and comply with the clear prohibitions of federal law with the flexibility afforded under state law."

“There's a problem with it, given that there's a new law,” said University of South Florida Healthcare Vice President Jay Wolfson. “The law says that this is a legitimate medical therapy and you've gotten a legal medical prescription.”

But he says that doesn’t necessarily mean they have to allow her to take it.

“They have the prerogative under medical decision-making and their medical director to say we do not believe that this is something that we want to offer and administer in our facility because there are alternatives, and it's going to be very difficult to force them to do that.”

Wolfson believes it will take many conversations over many months to sort out how long-term health care facilities in Florida will handle medical marijuana.

For Greene and his mom, a resolution can't come soon enough.

“It just devastated her when she thought relief was at hand and she was denied it,” said Greene.

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