California Governor Signs Bill Protecting Medical Cannabis Patients From Healthcare Discrimination
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has signed another pair of marijuana reform bills, including one that provides protections for medical cannabis patients against discrimination in healthcare.
Ahead of the end of legislative session last week, lawmakers delivered a number of cannabis measures to the governor in the final push. On Friday, Newsom signed AB 1954 from Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D) and SB 988 from Sen. Ben Hueso (D).
The former legislation makes it so doctors cannot discriminate against patients by denying medication or treatment based on a positive THC test if the person is a registered medical cannabis patient in the state. It further stipulates that medical professionals can’t be penalized for administering treatment to a patient who uses medical marijuana in compliance with state law.
Advocates say this is necessary to clear up confusion among physicians about how to manage patients’ treatment when they test positive for THC. Some patients have reported being cut off from opioid prescriptions for pain because they use medical cannabis.
Gov. Newsom Signs Bills to Protect Medical Marijuana Patients, Considers Others https://t.co/SPGJbMSzGF pic.twitter.com/oYpnFwlrtq
— California NORML (@CaliforniaNORML) September 3, 2022
“Many physicians are under the mistaken impression that they can’t prescribe medication to patients who test positive for cannabis,” Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML, said in a press release.
Larry Bedard, a physician, added that 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.”
The second bill that Newsom signed ahead of the Labor Day weekend would amend an existing law that permits registered patients to use medical marijuana products at hospitals. It would repeal a provision that currently requires that “health care facilities permitting patient use of medical cannabis comply with other drug and medication requirements.”
“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 measure summary says. “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.”
✅ AB 1954 – Physicians and surgeons: treatment and medication of patients using cannabis
✅ SB 988 – Compassionate Access to Medical Cannabis Act or Ryan’s Law.
Governor Newsom Signs Legislation 9.2.22 | California Governor https://t.co/Jp1ew1cL23
— Nicole Elliott (@NicoleElliottCA) September 3, 2022
Newsom is also considering a series of other cannabis reform proposals that the legislature passed in recent weeks.
Last week, for example, lawmakers sent the governor a bill that would ensure that medical cannabis patients across the state have access to delivery services, ending the current policy that allows individual jurisdictions to ban any marijuana license types from operating in their area.
Sen. Scott Wiener (D) is the sponsor of that proposal. He and other advocates have argued that the legislation will both improve patient access and help fill voids throughout the state where no cannabis license types have been authorized, causing complications for patients and creating an incentive for illicit suppliers.
Activists were also pleased to see a measure providing employment protections for most workers who use marijuana off the job clear the legislature last week, after earlier versions stalled in committee in past sessions.
Also last month, a key reform to streamline record sealing for people with eligible marijuana-related convictions passed the legislature.
Another passed measure would set the state up to allow interstate cannabis commerce. The sponsor of that legislation, Sen. Anna Caballero (D), said in a statement last week that “California can and should lay the groundwork for a multi-state legal cannabis market, which will benefit our rural economy and our workers and put a dent in the dangerous illicit market.
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An additional bill that was passed this week and is now moving to the governor would amend the state’s medical cannabis law to authorize marijuana products for non-human animals and protect veterinarians who issue cannabis recommendations for pets.
But while these measures have received ample attention from advocates and stakeholders, there are even more reform proposals on the table for action by the governor.
Here’s a rundown of other recently passed marijuana bills that Newsom will soon act on:
SB 1326: Caballero’s measure would set the stage to allow for interstate marijuana commerce from California to and from other legal states, contingent on an official assurance that the activity would not put the state at risk of federal enforcement action.
AB 2188: Quirk’s bill would “make it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment, or otherwise penalize a person” solely because of off-duty marijuana use. It would eliminate employment-based THC testing, with exceptions for certain positions, such as federal employees or those working in construction.
SB 1186: The bill from Wiener would “prohibit a local jurisdiction from adopting or enforcing any regulation that prohibits the retail sale by delivery within the local jurisdiction of medicinal cannabis to medicinal cannabis patients or their primary caregivers by medicinal cannabis businesses.”
AB 1706: Assemblymember Mia Bonta’s (D) legislation is meant to enhance justice reform provisions of the state’s marijuana law by mandating the courts to process record sealing and other forms of relief for people with eligible cannabis convictions on their records in a specific timeframe. Courts would have until March 1, 2023 to seal records for qualifying cases that weren’t challenged by July 1, 2020.
AB 2595: This bill from Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D) would make it so that “when a social worker is investigating an alleged case of child abuse or neglect, a parent’s or guardian’s use or possession of cannabis is treated in the same manner as a parent’s or guardian’s use or possession of alcohol and legally prescribed medication.”
AB 1885: The bill from Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D) would prohibit regulators from penalizing licensed veterinarians who recommend medical cannabis for animals and revise state law to include definitions for marijuana products intended for animal consumption. The Veterinary Medical Board would also be required to create guidelines for veterinarian cannabis recommendations.
AB 2568: Sponsored by Assemblymember Ken Cooley (D), the bill would “provide it is not a crime solely for individuals and firms to provide insurance and related services to persons licensed to engage in commercial cannabis activity,” according to a summary.
SB 1496 This bill that came out of the Committee on Governance and Finance would make a series of changes to the state’s cannabis tax policy, including by authorizing regulators to extend the deadline for tax payments by cannabis businesses located in areas affected by an emergency proclamation by the governor.
AB 1646: This bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Phillip Chen (R), would “authorize cannabis beverages to be packaged in containers of any material that are clear or any color.”
AB 1894: Assemblymember Luz Rivas’s (D) bill would add advertising and labeling requirements for cannabis vaporizer products, stipulating that they should be properly disposed and would constitute hazard waste if thrown away improperly.
AB 2210: Another bill from Quirk would prohibit state marijuana regulators from “denying an application for a state temporary event license solely on the basis that there is a license issued pursuant to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act for the proposed premises of the event.”
AB 2925: This measure from Jim Cooper (D) would mandate that the State Department of Health Care Services submit reports to the legislature, starting no later than July 10, 2023, that accounts for cannabis tax revenue that has been distributed to the Youth Education, Prevention, Early Intervention and Treatment Account, as required under the state’s marijuana law.
Newsom has a long record of supporting marijuana reform and backing the state’s market, so he’s generally expected to sign these measures. But despite his record, he recently vetoed a key piece of drug policy reform legislation from Wiener that would have authorized a safe drug consumption site pilot program in the state—a move that’s prompted widespread criticism from the harm reduction community.
San Francisco officials have since signaled that they’re prepared to defy the governor and launch an overdose prevention program regardless of the veto.
In another disappointment for reform advocates, a separate Wiener bill that would have legalized possession of limited amounts of certain psychedelics was recently pulled by the sponsor after its main provisions were gutted, leaving just a study component that advocates say is unnecessary given the existing body of scientific literature on the subject.
Here’s an overview of other recent drug policy developments in California:
In July, California officials awarded more than $1.7 million in grants help promote sustainable marijuana cultivation practices and assist growers with obtaining their annual licenses. A total of $6 million will be allotted through the program, which was first announced in August 2021 and will remain open for applications through April 2023.
Regulators also recently announced that they are soliciting input on proposed rules to standardize cannabis testing methods in the state—an effort that they hope will stop marijuana businesses from “laboratory shopping” to find facilities that are more likely to show higher THC concentrations that they can then boast for their products.
Meanwhile, California officials are distributing another round of community reinvestment grants totaling $35.5 million with tax revenue generated from recreational marijuana sales.
The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) announced in July that they’ve awarded 78 grants to organizations throughout the state that will support economic and social development in communities disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.
The amount of funding and number of recipients increased from last year’s levels, when the state awarded about $29 million in grants to 58 nonprofit organizations through the CalCRG program.
California has taken in nearly $4 billion in marijuana tax revenue since the state’s adult-use market launched in 2018, the Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) reported in July. And for the first quarter of 2022, the state saw about $294 million in cannabis revenue generated from the excise, cultivation and sales tax on marijuana.
The state collected about $817 million in adult-use marijuana tax revenue during the last fiscal year. That represented 55 percent more cannabis earnings for state coffers than was generated in the 2020-2021 period.
California officials also announced in January that the state had awarded $100 million in funding to help develop local marijuana markets, in part by getting cannabis businesses fully licensed.
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Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.