Potential California Legislation Could Open Doors For Medical Marijuana in Hospitals

New California legislation could make it possible for hospitals to give cannabis to patients in legalized states.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the governor of California’s office are determining if hospitals and healthcare facilities can allow patients to use medical marijuana without the risk of federal funding being stripped in states with legalized cannabis. 

If the state of California and the HHS is able to prove federal funds would be protected for medical facilities, other states could follow suit with similar legislation. California Sen. Ben Hueso is sponsoring the bill that would codify that state hospitals can permit cannabis-based treatment. 

In 2019, California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a similar bill due to confusion and concern about federal funding repercussions. Hueso sent letters to state and federal officials requesting clarification on cannabis access for patients; both the HHS and the governor’s office told local media they were looking into the issue. 

The current legislation was partly inspired by Jim Bartell, a father whose son struggled to gain access to medical marijuana treatment during his battle with cancer. 

“He would sleep through the night and wake up pain-free,” Bartell told The Southern California Record. “He was talking, texting his friends and asking them to visit him. During his last two and a half weeks, he met with dozens of visitors and he spent an hour every day talking to his son, just the two of them.”

Bartell helped craft what would become the Compassionate Access to Medical Cannabis Act, which Hueso is sponsoring in California. 

Hueso received a letter from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) stating that, “there are no federal regulations in place that specifically address this issue and that it isn’t aware of any cases where funding has been pulled because a hospital allows patients to use medical cannabis.”

CMS has provided assurance that healthcare facilities aren’t at risk of losing their federal funds because the Justice Department has been barred under annually renewed spending legislation from using its funds to interfere in the implementation of state-level medical marijuana programs.

The bill has currently passed through the full California Senate and one Assembly committee, and is currently awaiting action on the Assembly floor before being sent to Newsom’s desk. 

“Ryan’s Law would require that hospitals and certain types of healthcare facilities in the State of California allow a terminally-ill patient to use medical cannabis for treatment and/or pain relief,” Hueso wrote in the July letter to state and federal officials. “Currently, whether or not medical cannabis is permitted is left up to hospital policy, and this creates issues for patients and their families who seek alternative, more natural medication options in their final days.”

More information on Rideout Law can be found at: https://www.rideoutlaw.com

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