BY RUTH HILL R.N.
The California Senate bill, SB-302 Compassionate Access to Medical Cannabis, expands existing law requiring health facilities to permit terminally ill patients as well as patients who are over 65 years of age and have a chronic disease to have access to their medical cannabis.
According to the National Council on Aging, nearly 95% of people over 65 have one chronic condition and nearly 80% have two or more. Patients using medicinal cannabis to treat a variety of chronic illnesses have unfettered access outside of healthcare facilities. However, elderly patients who live in medically assisted facilities are not afforded this same right.
Caregivers for elderly parents utilize cannabis for symptoms of dementia, pain, inappropriate behaviors, anxieties, multiple sclerosis, and PTSD, as their only option when pharmaceuticals cease being effective. When the parents’ needs become too great for the family’s capacity, caregivers become shocked when cannabis is taken away and replaced with opiates and other addictive medications.
The Legislature, with the passage of SB 311in 2021, has already shown they recognize the utility of cannabis in medical treatment. This bill simply allows the same access to more individuals who find benefit. Our elderly deserve all viable and effective options to treat chronic disease in any medical setting.
Medical Marijuana in the U.S.
California was the first state in the nation to allow for the medical use of marijuana with the passage of Proposition 215 in 1996. Since then, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 33 more states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have enacted similar laws.
In January 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published a review of the scientific research on cannabis published since 1999, considering more than 10,000 scientific abstracts to reach nearly 100 conclusions. It also found benefits for multiple sclerosis-related muscle spasms and preventing and treating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
Marijuana in Hospitals
ACP Hospitals, a publication of the American College of Physicians, published an article in January 2017 entitled “Medical marijuana…in the hospital?” According to this article, with medical marijuana laws now in effect in more than half the country, hospitals are seeing more patients who have been certified to use the drug, and they are developing policies and practices in response. As of May 2016, state laws in Connecticut and Maine permit the use of medical marijuana by hospitalized patients and give some state-level legal protection for clinicians who administer it. In Maine, where medical cannabis has been legal for years and even with state law permitting use in a hospital, hospitals commonly prohibit the use of the drug in their facilities.
The Minnesota Hospital Association came up with three sample policies with three clear stances that hospitals can take on the issue. The Mayo Clinic’s hospitals permit the use by patients registered with Minnesota’s medical marijuana program who come into the hospital with a cannabis product in its original container as dispensed by an approved cannabis patient center.
A February 2017 article in Hospital Pharmacy, “Considerations for Hospital Policies Regarding Medical Cannabis Use,” hospitals potentially carry enormous risks in allowing cannabis use by patients because cannabis is illegal under federal law.
SB302 “Held at the Desk”
SB302 has already passed the CA Senate. It is now in the Assembly “held at the desk” which means it is available for immediate consideration. Since it is not referred to a committee, the bill has no hearings or committee reports accompanying it from that Chamber. If you had to go to the hospital would you want them to take away your medical cannabis? To register your support please findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov to find your Assembly Member and ask him/her to “tell the Assembly Speaker to pass this bill by unanimous consent.”