The California State Assembly passed AB 258, The Medical Cannabis Organ Transplant Act, yesterday by a vote of 52 to 8. The bill is authored by Assembly Member Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) and sponsored by Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the nation's leading medical cannabis patients' advocacy organization.
Medical cannabis patients in California are routinely removed from the organ transplant waiting list if they test positive for cannabis use - even legal doctor-recommended medical cannabis. However, medical research has shown that there is no significant difference in survival rates between medical cannabis patients and non-users who receive an organ transplant.
"Today, I am proud to stand with my Assembly colleagues in support of AB 258, a common sense measure that will protect the lives of legal medical cannabis patients," said Assembly Member Marc Levine (D-San Rafael). "With this legislation, California can insure that its residents are provided a fair assessment of their eligibility as an organ transplant recipient."
AB 258 will reduce unnecessary suffering and preventable death by prohibiting anyone in the organ transplant process from determining the recipient of an organ transplant based on the potential recipient's legal medical cannabis use, unless a doctor has determined that medical cannabis use is clinically significant to the transplant process.
Norman Smith lawfully used medical cannabis as part of his treatment for liver cancer. He was removed from the Wait List by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after testing positive for medical cannabis use in 2011. Program policies required that he test negative for medical cannabis for six months before requesting a new place on the list. Sadly, Mr. Smith died before he could be placed back on the list, a tragic and avoidable loss of life.
Unfortunately, Mr. Smith is not alone. Toni Trujillo was denied a life-saving kidney transplant at Cedars-Sinai the following year based on her cannabis use, which the transplant center called "substance abuse." Yami Bolanos, 58, is an eighteen-year liver transplant survivor, who was warned that she would be ineligible for a re- transplant by the same doctor at UCSF that recommended her medical cannabis use. Richard Hawthorne, another patient in need of a liver, was denied a transplant by Stanford Medical School last year, despite a friend offering to be a donor.
"This bill is not about drug policy or cannabis legalization. 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," said Don Duncan ASA's California Director. "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."
AB 258 will ensure that "A hospital, physician and surgeon, procurement organization, or other person shall not determine the ultimate recipient of an anatomical gift based solely upon a potential recipient's status as a qualified patient...or based solely on a positive test for the use of medical marijuana by a potential recipient who is a qualified patient." The bill will next need to pass out of the California State Senate before being sent to Governor Brown's desk for his signature or veto.
Last year the California Medical Association adopted a resolution stating that medical cannabis should not be a criteria for denying organ transplants. Medical cannabis patients are already protected from discrimination when seeking organ transplants in several states, including Arizona, Delaware, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Washington.