California Gov. Signs Medical Cannabis Patient & Physician Protection Reforms Bill

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has signed a bill to protect patients’ access to medical treatment even if they test positive for cannabis and the rights of doctors to treat such patients without ramifications from federal law.

Full story after the jump.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Friday signed into law a bill to protect the right of patients to medical treatment if they use cannabis and the rights of doctors and clinics to treat them, Bay City News reports. The law clarifies that physicians cannot be punished for treating patients who use or test positive for cannabis, despite its status as an illegal drug under federal law.  

The bill also prohibits the automatic elimination of patients who use cannabis from pain management programs by specifying that a positive drug test for cannabis should not be the sole basis for denying medical treatment under such programs. 

In a statement, Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML, one of the sponsors of the bill, said that the law was needed as “many physicians are under the mistaken impression that they can’t prescribe medication to patients who test positive for cannabis.” 

California NORML said the organization regularly hears from patients who are terminated from pain management medications due to their medical cannabis use. In an online survey with nearly 600 respondents, the advocacy group found that 18.5% of respondents had been denied prescription medications by a doctor due to their medical cannabis use.  

In 2019, the House of Delegates of the California Medical Association voted to adopt a recommendation stating, “That CMA opposes policies of health plans, health systems, and hospitals that have pain management programs that automatically eliminate patients who use therapeutic cannabis.”  

Newsom on Friday also signed a bill to allow terminally ill patients to use cannabis in certain healthcare facilities. Hospitals were resisting implementing the law, claiming a conflict with federal law.

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