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California (CA) Governor Gavin Newsom (D), recently signed a medical cannabis bill, also known as “Ryan’s Law,” into law. Entitled from this new legislation, hospitals are now required to permit medical cannabis use by severely ill patients, if they opt to do so.
In September 2021, California (CA) Governor Gavin Newsom (D), received a medical cannabis bill, also known as “Ryan’s Law,” on his desk which was consecutively was signed into law. Through this new legislation, hospitals are now required to permit medical cannabis use by severely ill patients if they so desire (1). An earlier version of the bill had previously been vetoed meaning, Gov. Newsoms’ prior concerns have been addressed.
Sen. Ben Hueso (D), the bill’s sponsor, has been advocating for his measure to allow cannabis use in medical facilities for terminally ill patients over multiple sessions. Recently, Hueso had sent a letter to the head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), seeking clarification on whether the policy change could jeopardize federal funding for those facilities.
“It is inconceivable to me that, in a state where medical cannabis was legalized more than 25 years ago, those in deepest suffering receiving treatment in our state’s healthcare facilities cannot access this proven, effective and prescribed treatment,” Hueso said Hueso in a press release (2).
“Instead, terminally-ill patients in California healthcare facilities are given heavy opiates that rob them of their precious last moments with family and friends,” he said. “This is a simple, yet critical, move that will provide relief, compassion and dignity to terminally-ill Californians.”
Representatives from the governor’s office and HHS have been in touch with Hueso over the last few months and were looking further into the policy change issue (3). Hueso also received a letter from the Centers Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) several months ago mentioning that there are currently no federal regulations in place that specifically address this issue and that the agency is not aware of any cases where funding has been pulled because a hospital entitles patients to use medical cannabis.
“With this confirmation from CMS and the safeguards in the law, we are confident that healthcare facilities have the necessary authority to implement these provisions while ensuring the safety of other patients, guests, and employees of the healthcare facility, compliance with other state laws, and the safe operations of the healthcare facility,” said Sen. Hueso said.
However, With the new law, there are still some restrictions included inside the packagewithin the new law. One such restriction is that patients receiving treatment for emergency care would not be covered. Smoking and vaping cannabis would be prohibited. It also stipulates that hospitals will not be required to provide or dispense cannabis.
A statement from Newsom about the specific hospitals bill was not released, which instead his office announced thathe signed it along with more than two dozen other pieces of unrelated legislation.
Ryan’s Law was partly inspired by the experience of a father, Jim Bartell, whose son died from cancer and was initially denied access to cannabis at a California hospital. Jim Bartell did eventually find a facility that agreed to allow the treatment, and he has said his son’s quality of life improved dramatically in those last days.
“In the invaluable last days as Ryan fought stage 4 pancreatic cancer, I first-handedly experienced the positive impact medical cannabis had on my son’s well-being, as opposed to the harsh effects of opiates,” Bartell said. “Medical cannabis is an excellent option for relieving pain and suffering in those who are terminally-ill, but most importantly it serves to provide compassion, support, and dignity to patients and their families, during their loved-ones’ final days.”
“Looking at each other, holding Ryan’s hand and telling him how much I loved him during his final moments would not have been possible without the medical cannabis,” he added (1).
California has several other ground-breaking pieces of legislation in the works. AdditionallyFor example, waiting on Newsom’s desk is legislation that will set up a regulatory framework for hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) sales that also removes the ban on smokable hemp products (4). A
In another California bill that passed the Senate and several Assembly committees aims to legalize possession of a wide range of psychedelics such as psilocybin and ayahuasca. That bill has been stalled following a decision by the sponsor that more time is needed to build the case for the reform and solidify its chances of being enacted (5).
Although this bill has been put on the back burner, California activists were cleared to begin collecting signatures for a 2022 ballot initiative to legalize psilocybin mushroom in their state (6).