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California Governor Signs Bill Banning Discrimination Against Medical Cannabis Patients

A.J. Herrington

By A.J. Herrington

September 7, 2022

Mature woman with cannabis

Adobe Stock

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation to prohibit discrimination against medical marijuana patients by healthcare professionals, ensuring that those who use cannabis medicinally will not be denied the care they need. The measure, (AB-1954) from Democratic Assemblymember Bill Quirk, was passed by the California State Assembly in May, followed by approval from the state Senate last month. Newsom, also a Democrat, signed the bill into law on September 2.

Under the bill, physicians and other healthcare professionals will not be permitted to discriminate against patients by denying medication or other treatment based on a positive THC test. The legislation applies to patients who have registered with the state as medical marijuana patients. The bill also protects healthcare professionals from being penalized for providing care to patients who use cannabis medicinally in compliance with state law.

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Medical Cannabis Patients Have Been Denied Care

Representatives of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) noted that before the passage of the bill, medical professionals were allowed to discriminate against patients who use cannabis medicinally. In many cases, healthcare professionals would deny pain medication to patients solely on the basis of a positive test for THC. Paul Armentano, NORML deputy director, said the passage of the bill “brings an end to this long-standing and discriminatory practice.” 

“With dozens of studies showing that cannabis often leads to a reduction in pain patients’ use of potentially more harmful opioids, it made no sense for doctors engage in this sort of flagrantly discriminatory and destructive behavior,”

“We have heard innumerable complaints from chronic pain patients who have been denied treatment by their doctors or clinics simply for testing positive for cannabis,” added Dale Gieringer, director of NORML’s California chapter. “We thank the Governor and legislature for ending this practice by approving AB-1954 with unanimous bipartisan support.”

In 2019, the California Medical Association House of Delegates adopted a resolution that criticized the automatic disqualification of patients who use cannabis from pain management programs. AB-1954 codifies the resolution, by specifying that a positive result for a drug test for marijuana should not be the basis for denying medical treatment to a patient without a medically significant reason.

“It is irresponsible and unethical for pain management programs to eliminate patients who are using medical cannabis for their chronic pain, because there is conclusive scientific evidence that cannabis is a safe and effective treatment for chronic pain,” Larry A. Bedard, a San Francisco Bay Area physician who drafted the CMA resolution,

.

Cassia Furman, equity partner and executive board member of the cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg LLP, applauded California’s cannabis activists for their efforts to secure approval of the legislation. 

“The passage of AB-1954 highlights the tireless advocacy of California’s medical cannabis community, particularly the work of long-standing organizations California NORML and Americans for Safe Access, to safeguard and improve patient access to medical cannabis, even as media and legislative focus is ever more fixed on state-legal adult use cannabis markets and prospective federal reform,” Furman wrote in an email to High There.

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Newsom Also Signs Senate Bill 988

Newsom also approved

from Democratic Sen. Ben Hueso, an amendment to the Compassionate Access to Medical Cannabis Act (also known as Ryan’s Law), which allows patients to use medical cannabis in healthcare facilities. The bill specifies that patients or their caregivers are responsible for acquiring, storing and administering medical cannabis and that medical marijuana preparations must be removed from the facility when the patient is discharged.

“The bill would require a health facility to require a patient or a primary caregiver, as defined, to be responsible for acquiring, retrieving, administering, and removing medicinal cannabis and would require medicinal cannabis to be stored securely at all times,” reads a summary of the legislation. “The bill would require the patient or the patient’s primary caregiver to, upon discharge, remove all remaining medicinal cannabis and, if a patient cannot remove the medicinal cannabis and does not have a primary caregiver, would require the storage of the product in a locked container until it is disposed of, as specified.”

A.J. Herrington

About The Author

A.J. Herrington

HIGH THERE MISSION

WE’RE A CREATIVE COMMUNITY — EXPLORING THE SCIENCE, CRAFT, AND CULTURE OF CANNABIS.
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