California’s governor is passing two bills to protect patients using medicinal cannabis
On September 2, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1954 and Senate Bill 988 into law.
Assembly Bill 1954, introduced by Assembly Member Bill Quirk, will protect medical cannabis patients from being discriminated against by doctors and surgeons for testing positive for THC.
According to Cal NORML Director Dale Gieringer, AB-1954 will clarify the rules for patient cannabis use for physicians. “Many doctors are under the wrong impression that they can’t prescribe medication for patients who test positive for cannabis,” Gieringer said. A NORML article states that many California health plans require patients to sign agreements stating they will not use illegal substances during their treatment and agree to drug testing. Prior to this law, NORML found that 18.5% of patients were denied treatment with prescription drugs because a doctor became aware of their cannabis use.
“It is irresponsible and unethical for pain management programs to exclude patients 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 MD NORMAL With the passage of AB-1954, physicians will not be penalized if their patients use cannabis.
The second bill, Senate Bill 988, was introduced by Senator 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 healthcare facility that a patient, or primary caregiver, as defined, be responsible for the acquisition, collection, administration and disposal of medical cannabis and would require that medical cannabis be kept secure at all times,” it said it in the summary states. “The bill would require the patient or the patient’s primary caregiver to remove all remaining medical cannabis upon discharge, and if a patient cannot remove the medical cannabis and does not have a primary caregiver, the product would be kept in a locked room be required container pending disposal as indicated.”
Newsom also has a number of other cannabis-related bills to sign into law, which he has until September 30th. These include bills that would allow medical cannabis to be shipped into local jurisdictions, introduce automatic record sealing, require the Department of Human Services to treat medical cannabis use similarly to alcohol or prescription drugs, allow veterinarians to recommend cannabis to pets, allow licenses for cannabis events to take place where alcohol is sold and a proposal to allow interstate cannabis trade from California to other legal states.
Recently, Legislature finally approved Assembly Bill 2188. If Newsom signs AB-2188, it would be unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an individual for using cannabis outside of work hours. This applies to the “hiring, termination or any term or condition of employment or other punishment of any person”.
If passed, California would become the seventh state to introduce protections for cannabis-using employees. According to Quirk, who is also the author of AB-2188 along with the aforementioned AB-1954, the law only protects off-duty employees. “Nothing in this bill would allow anyone to come [to work] high,” Quirk told ABC News in an interview.
A few weeks ago, Newsom vetoed a bill that would allow safe injection sites to prevent drug overdoses. Senate Bill 57 author 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, make people healthy and reduce the harm to people who use drugs. Right now we are letting people die on our streets for no other reason than an arbitrary legal ban that we need to lift. SB-57 is long overdue and will have a major impact on some of the most vulnerable people in our community.”