California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation designed to prevent medical institutions from denying organ transplants to patients who use marijuana for medical treatment. Assemblyman Marc Levine of San Rafael wrote AB 258, which is set to go into effect January 2016.
Proponents of the legislation claim that people who use cannabis to treat pain or alleviate nausea from cancer treatment have been routinely disqualified from organ donor lists based solely on their use of marijuana. Americans for Safe Access California Director Don Duncan announced:
“AB 258’s passage is the result of ASA’s membership tirelessly work for over two years. In California legal medical cannabis patients will never again face a choice between their doctor-recommended medicine and a life-saving organ transplant.”
California voters approved the use of medical marijuana in 1996 through Proposition 215, or the Compassionate Use Act. The National Conference of State Legislators lists 23 states as administrators of medical marijuana programs.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the primary psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis. It is the best known of the cannabinoids and widely considered to be an effective analgesic and antiemetic. With the passage of this new legislation, organ transplant candidates will not be disqualified based on the presence of THC in their systems.
Qualifications for transplant recipients include urgency of need, type of organ, blood type, time spent on the wait list and physical proximity of the donor to the recipient. The use of medical cannabis has not been proven to affect the success or failure of an organ transplant. According to the Medical Cannabis Transplant Act authored by Levine:
“[M]edical studies have shown that in the case of organ transplant recipients, there is no significant difference in survival rates between medical cannabis patients and non-users.”
For many people, this legislation represents another step toward bridging the gap between a medical institution that discriminates against the use of cannabis in the treatment of disease and one that accepts and ultimately embraces it.