NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Until now, seriously ill patients waiting for transplants were removed from the organ donor waiting list in California if they tested positive for cannabis. In what is being hailed as one of the more significant victories of the year for medical users, the State Assembly passed The Medical Cannabis Organ Transplant Act earlier this month. The bill was authored by assembly member Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) and sponsored by Americans for Safe Access - the largest marijuana patients' rights advocacy group in the U.S.
"This bill is not about drug policy or cannabis legalization," said Don Duncan, ASA's California Director. "It is about fundamental fairness and compassion. Legal medical cannabis patients should not have to choose between their doctor-recommended medicine and a life-saving organ transplant. Research shows that medical cannabis has no adverse affect on medical cannabis patients and may be beneficial in the organ transplant process. It is time for policies to catch up with science."
"This is a true win for medical cannabis patients, because we've seen the life and death consequences of organ transplant discrimination play out too many times," added Christopher Brown, ASA's press secretary.
Apart from being important for advocates, this is seen as a major advance in the medical industry in the state.
"We know cannabis is a safe alternative to many commonly used medications," said Derek Peterson, the CEO of Terra Tech (TRTC). "It's no surprise that the data continues to bear that out. It's nice to see data driven policy making around medical marijuana, something we've always encouraged."
Julianna Carella, CEO of Auntie Delores, a medical edible company, was equally enthusiastic at the news. "We are thrilled to hear the California state assembly passed this important act," she said. "It's time medical marijuana patients were not stigmatized for using medicine their doctors have prescribed and support."
While this is not an issue of concern to the average recreational user, there have been more than a few documented cases of patients who were removed from the organ donor wait list merely for testing positive for cannabis who later died. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, for example, has removed several patients from its liver transplant list over the past few years because of marijuana use only to see those patients then die.
The new law in California now accepts that medical cannabis does not harm organ donor recipients and potentially might help them survive the wait and the recovery process. "Many California residents use cannabis as part of a regimen to help treat very painful debilitating diseases while awaiting these transplants," Carella said. "The science shows that cannabis has a positive effect both physically and mentally on the health and disease state of these patients. It can provide vital anti-inflammatory benefits, reduce pain and nausea, as well as increase vitality and calm for people that are suffering."
The issue of systematic discrimination against medical cannabis users still has a long way to go, both in the medical system and beyond. That said, it is clear that this is an issue now clearly on the radar of policy makers in California as well as other states as marijuana reform continues to roll on.
"The tide has turned and we think more states will soon pass this type of legislation to protect legal medical consumers of cannabis," Carella said. "By passing this bill it signals that California is ready to provide equal and fair treatment to all patients."
--Written by Marguerite Arnold for MainStreet