CA Senate Advances Bill Seeking to Allow Terminally-Ill Patients to Use Medical Cannabis in Healthcare Facilities

Ryan’s Law: Compassionate Access to Medical Cannabis in Healthcare Facilities Act moves to Assembly with a 37-0 vote
May 21, 2019

Sacramento, CA – May 21, 2019 – The California State Senate yesterday voted unanimously to pass legislation seeking to allow the use of medical cannabis in healthcare facilities for Californians who are terminally ill. Senate Bill No. 305, authored by Sen. Ben Hueso and known as “Ryan’s Law,” would provide relief, compassion and dignity to Californians during the most vulnerable time of their lives.

“For too long, Californians have been denied access in healthcare facilities to medical cannabis-related treatment methods, despite research demonstrating it to have innumerable benefits,” said Sen. Hueso. “As a result, individuals have been subjugated to unnecessary trials of pain and suffering. This is a simple yet critical step, which will have an abundance of benefits to ensure access to compassion and pain management for terminally-ill patients in California.”

Research has shown that medical cannabis possesses many strong medicinal properties and can provide a great deal of benefits. According to the American Cancer Society, medical cannabis can be helpful for reducing nausea and vomiting linked to chemotherapy. It has also been found to help improve food intake and prevent weight loss in patients with HIV. Medical cannabis has shown promise for helping people with cancer pain that’s unrelieved by strong pain medicines.

However, due to the Federal Drug-Free Workplace Act, which requires any institution receiving federal funds or grants to prohibit the use or distribution of “controlled substances” in the workplace, hospitals across the country have adopted policies prohibiting cannabis on its grounds. Despite the fact that Californians passed Prop 215 authorizing medicinal cannabis over 20 years ago, even hospitals in this state do not allow its use by patients on their premises.

This bill seeks to close that gap by allowing those who most need compassion at the end of life to have access to medical cannabis if they possess a recommendation by a physician or a medical marijuana card. SB 305 will provide the necessary authority for hospitals to implement this policy while ensuring the safety of other patients, medical staff and guests of the facility. The legislation also provides a safe harbor clause allowing healthcare facilities to suspend the program if there is Federal intervention. If passed, California will join Connecticut, Maine and New York in granting access to medical cannabis in medical facilities.

SB 305 is sponsored by Jim Bartell, father of Ryan Bartell.

Ben Hueso presents Ryan's Law

Ryan’s Story:

Ryan Bartell was just 42 years old when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He immediately sought conventional treatments of radiation and chemotherapy but the cancer had spread throughout his body. He was given strong opioids – morphine and fentanyl – for his pain management, which mainly put him to sleep and unaware of his surroundings. Finally, a close family friend recommended medical cannabis and the changes were remarkable. Ryan was alert and speaking to his family and young son, and he was in good spirits and had an appetite for the first time in weeks.

However, this was short lived because terminally ill patients in deep suffering who are receiving care in California healthcare facilities are denied access to medical cannabis. Ryan’s family was forced to search for weeks for a facility that would allow him to use his CBD oil to help manage his pain effectively. Finally, after weeks of searching, a facility in Washington allowed Ryan to continue using his CBD oil. Sadly, Ryan only lived a few more short weeks.

“This bill will provide relief not only to those who are terminally ill but for their family members who are enduring their struggle together,” said Sen. Hueso. “Had this bill been in place last year, Ryan and his family could have fully enjoyed every last hour of those precious weeks together.”