Fresh from winning the California recall election vote, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill requiring hospitals to allow certain patients to use medical marijuana on-site.

The move comes after Newsom reluctantly used his power of veto against a similar proposal in 2019, citing concerns which he says have now been allayed.

The measure’s sponsor, Sen. Ben Hueso (D), was behind the 2019 effort which also sought to ensure terminally ill patients could use marijuana in medical facilities.

Prior to Newsom signing the bill into law, Hueso wrote to the US Department of Health and Human Services to ask whether the requirement to allow medical marijuana use in hospitals and other treatment centers could threaten federal funding of such facilities.

“It is inconceivable to me that, in a state where medical cannabis was legalized more than 25 years ago, those in deepest suffering receiving treatment in our state’s healthcare facilities cannot access this proven, effective and prescribed treatment,” Hueso said.

“Instead, terminally-ill patients in California healthcare facilities are given heavy opiates that rob them of their precious last moments with family and friends,” he added. “This is a simple, yet critical, move that will provide relief, compassion and dignity to terminally-ill Californians.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) wrote to Hueso to inform him there are no specific rules in place concerning this issue, and that no medical facility has lost federal funding for this reason.

“With this confirmation from CMS and the safeguards in the law, we are confident that healthcare facilities have the necessary authority to implement these provisions while ensuring the safety of other patients, guests, and employees of the healthcare facility, compliance with other state laws, and the safe operations of the healthcare facility,” Hueso said.

The approved legislation contains various exemptions prohibiting the use of cannabis in hospitals. Emergency care patients won’t be permitted to do so, nor will smoking and vaping marijuana on-site be allowed. Further, hospitals will not have any responsibility to provide qualifying patients with cannabis.

The new law was motivated by a father whose son died of cancer having been denied marijuana at the hospital where he was being treated. In his last days, he was moved to another facility which allowed him to use cannabis and his father said this greatly improved his quality of life for the short time he had left.

“In the invaluable last days as Ryan fought stage 4 pancreatic cancer, I first-handedly experienced the positive impact medical cannabis had on my son’s well-being, as opposed to the harsh effects of opiates,” the boy’s father, Jim Bartell, said. “Medical cannabis is an excellent option for relieving pain and suffering in those who are terminally-ill, but most importantly it serves to provide compassion, support, and dignity to patients and their families, during their loved-ones’ final days.”

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