Ryan’s Law Would Allow Terminally Ill Patients to Choose Medical Cannabis Treatment
Although medical and recreational cannabis are legal in the state of California, there are restrictions, as compelled by the federal Drug-Free Workplace Act.
Recently, you may have heard or came across Senate Bill 305, otherwise known as The Compassionate Access to Cannabis Act, or Ryan’s Law. California cannabis activists showed their support on Friday, April 5th at a conference with state Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) held in the lobby of a state federal building on Front, St. in Downtown San Diego. The bill would allow for terminally ill patients, with their doctors’ authorization, the choice to use medical cannabis within health care facilities if it is passed.
The Backstory Behind Ryan’s Law
Hueso was approached by former Santee Mayor Jim Bartell and his wife, Elaine, with the idea of submitting the bill in Sacramento. Bartell’s 42-year-old son, Ryan, was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in early 2018 and would die seven weeks later in a hospital bed in Washington State. Their experience prompted action and developed to what is now known as Ryan’s Law. Bartell doesn’t want other patients restricted only to opiates that often diminishes the quality of life patients deserve during their final days.
During Ryan’s end-of-life care “they had him on morphine and fentanyl, two very serious opioids,” as stated by Bartell. “Because of these drugs, he was asleep most of the time to deal with the pain.” The first hospital he was placed in didn’t allow him to use medical cannabis as an alternative treatment.
Although medical and recreational cannabis are legal in the state of California, there are restrictions, as compelled by the Federal Drug-Free Workplace Act, when it comes to federally funded institutions and programs such as Medical and Medicaid. These laws prohibit the use or distribution of “controlled substances” within those facilities. Hueso explained that hospitals have adopted policies prohibiting cannabis on their grounds, in order to comply with those regulations. There is a vast gray area within the legislation of medical cannabis due to its classification as a Scheduled 1 substance within the realms of federal law.
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Relief Provided by Cannabis
With the help of the Cannabis Nurses Network, Ryan’s family was able to move him to another hospital which allowed him to use cannabis medications. “We got medicine from a medical cannabis chemist designed specifically for Ryan – one to slow down the cancer and give him a little bit more time and two other medicines that were sprays because he couldn’t ingest anything. They allowed for him to be pain-free.” Explained Ryan’s father. “He went from being asleep most of the time to being alert and being able to communicate, to text, to talk to friends.”
A similar case caught national attention concerning a pancreatic cancer patient in a hospital in Missouri. The patient live streamed the situation on his YouTube channel while two officers searched his belongings due to an anonymous call they received, claiming that marijuana smoke could be smelled coming from his room.
The patient became upset and began filming, you can see the officers rummaging through his bags before a doctor could intervene. The patient can be heard discussing with the officers his use of a THC oil in the parking garage off-site from the medical grounds. He claimed that even though Missouri was still in the process of legalizing medical cannabis, he was unable to wait for the bill to pass due to his terminal illness.
The doctor then enters the room and asks the officers a series of questions involving the patient’s rights and their jurisdiction and procedures. The officers explained that if there were no substances found there would be no legal action against him, and in the outcome that they were to find any illegal substances, they would write the patient a citation.
Senate Bill 305 Could Provide an Alternative for Terminally Ill Patients Seeking Pain Relief
With Senate Bill 305, California’s Senate Committee aims to put systems into place for medical facilities to develop guidelines and prevent situations such as these when a patient is receiving end-of-life care or their doctor requests access to medical cannabis. According to California’s legislative website, patients deemed as terminally ill have a medical condition resulting in a prognosis of life of one year or less, following the diseases’ natural course.
Terminally ill patients would be required to provide a copy of their valid identification card or a copy of that patient’s written documentation, as defined in Section 11362.7. Smoking or vaping as methods to use medical cannabis would be prohibited and the health care facility shall include the use of medical cannabis within the patient’s medical records.