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California Governor Passes Two Medical Cannabis Patient Protection Bills

On Sept. 2, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 54 and Senate Bill 988.

Assembly Bill 1954, introduced by Assemblymember Bill Quirk will prevent medical marijuana patients being discriminated by surgeons and physicians due to their positive THC test results.

Dale Gieringer from Cal NORML, Director of AB-1954 will provide clarity to physicians about the regulations regarding cannabis use. “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 states that most California health plans have requirements for patients that they sign an agreement stating that they won’t use illegal drugs during treatment and that they consent to testing. NORML discovered that 18.5% patients had been denied prescription medication treatment because a doctor became aware of 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 has several other marijuana-related bills he can sign. He has until September 30, to do so. These bills include laws that permit medical cannabis delivery to local jurisdictions; establish an automatic record sealing statue; require the Department of Social Services treat medical cannabis usage similarly to alcohol and prescribed medication; allow veterinarians recommendation cannabis for pets; allow licensed cannabis events to be held where alcohol is sold. There’s also a proposal to allow interstate marijuana commerce between California and other legal states.

Legislators gave their final approval for Assembly Bill 2188. Newsom will sign AB-2188. It would be illegal for any employer to discriminate against a cannabis user who is not on the job. This applies to the “hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment, or otherwise penalize a person.”

California will become the seventh US state to have protections in place for employees who use cannabis. Quirk (also the author of AB-2188) said that the bill does not protect off-duty workers. “Nothing in this bill would allow someone to come [to work] high,” Quirk explained to ABC News in an interview.

Newsom rejected a bill to allow injections at safe locations a few weeks back in order to avoid drug overdoses. Scott Wiener was the author of Senate Bill57. He stressed how important it is to prevent overdoses with legislation like this. “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. We allow people to perish on the streets right now because there is no legal restriction that can be removed. SB-57 is long overdue, and will make a huge impact for some of the most vulnerable people in our community.”