California Now Protects Seriously Ill Patients Who Use Medical Cannabis


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Governor Jerry Brown signed the first of a series of pending Assembly bills related to medical marijuana earlier this week. Assembly Bill 258 will prevent California hospitals from denying organ transplants to patients who use medical marijuana. The new law will take effect on January 1. 

Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a medical marijuana advocacy group, has claimed that hundreds of patients have been denied life-saving organ transplants because they have legally treated their symptoms with medical cannabis.

Assemblymember Mark Levine.
  • Assemblymember Mark Levine.
Brown signed Assembly Bill 258 without much ceremony other than a short announcement from his press office. Assemblymember Mark Levine, D-San Rafael, who authored the bill, said the new law is a simple matter of fairness. “Arcane public health policies treat medical cannabis patients as drug abusers,” Levine wrote in a press release. “Many of these patients have died after being denied an organ transplant. “AB 258 will save lives by ensuring medical cannabis patients are not discriminated against in the organ transplant process.”

There are currently six other states that offer similar legal protections to patients who use medical marijuana to treat a variety of symptoms from numerous serious diseases, including cancer, AIDS, and glaucoma. Doctors also frequently recommend medical marijuana to counteract harsh side effects from some pharmaceutical treatments.

According to the Untied Network of Organ Sharing, there are approximately 23,000 Californians on the waiting list for organ transplants. The ASA, which sponsored the bill, estimates the new law will protect 1,150 Californians on the list who were previously at risk of being denied an organ transplant due to their medical marijuana use, according to the legislative analysis of AB 258.

Other pending assembly bills that would regulate the medical cannabis industry are AB 266, which would standardize medical cannabis licenses process, which is currently regulated by a “crazy quilt” of policies and ordinances that change with county lines. It would also provide statewide regulations to ensure the quality of medical cannabis and edibles. AB 243 would apply water quality laws to the pot farming industry. AB 305 would toughen laws for hash lab operators who start residential fires or injure people through negligence, though the legislation appears to have stalled in committee. And growers who pollute forests would face harsher penalties if SB 165 is signed into law.