California Governor Passes Two Medical Cannabis Patient Protection Bills


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On Sept. 2, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1954 and Senate Bill 988.

Assembly Bill 1954, which was introduced by Assemblymember Bill Quirk, will protect medical cannabis patients from being discriminated against by physicians and surgeons due to testing positive for THC.

According to Cal NORML Director Dale Gieringer, AB-1954 will clarify the rules on patient cannabis use for physicians. “Many physicians are under the mistaken impression that they can’t prescribe medication to patients who test positive for cannabis,” Gieringer said. A NORML article specifies that many California health plans require patients to sign agreements stating that they will not use illegal substances during their treatment, and must agree to drug testing. Prior to this bill, NORML found that 18.5% of patients were denied prescription medication treatment due to a doctor becoming aware of their cannabis use.

“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,” physician Larry A. Bedard told NORML. Through the passage of AB-1954, physicians won’t be punished if their patients consume cannabis.

The second bill, Senate Bill 988, was introduced by Sen. Ben Hueso as an amendment to the existing bill known as either the Compassionate Access to Medical Cannabis Act, or Ryan’s Law. “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,” the summary states. “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.”

Newsom also has a number of other cannabis-related bills to consider signing, which he has until September 30 to sign. This includes bills that allow medical cannabis delivery in local jurisdictions, establish an automatic record-sealing statue, require the Department of Social Services to treat medical cannabis use similarly to alcohol or prescribed medication, allow veterinarians to recommend cannabis to pets, allow cannabis event licenses to take place where alcohol is sold, and a proposal to allow interstate cannabis commerce from California to other legal states.

Most recently, lawmakers gave final approval to Assembly Bill 2188. If Newsom signs AB-2188, it would make it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person for cannabis use while off the clock. This applies to the “hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment, or otherwise penalize a person.”

If passed, California would become the seventh state to implement protections for cannabis-consuming employees. According to Quirk, who is also the author of AB-2188 in addition to the previously mentioned AB-1954, the bill only protects off duty employees. “Nothing in this bill would allow someone to come [to work] high,” Quirk explained to ABC News in an interview.

A few weeks ago, Newsom vetoed a bill that would allow safe injection sites in an effort to prevent drug overdoses. The author of Senate Bill 57, Senator Scott Wiener, emphasized the importance of prevention with a bill like his. “Every overdose death is preventable,” Wiener said. “We have the tools to end these deaths, get people healthy, and reduce harm for people who use drugs. Right now, we are letting people die on our streets for no reason other than an arbitrary legal prohibition that we need to remove. SB-57 is long overdue, and will make a huge impact for some of the most vulnerable people in our community.”



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