After a long, hardworking journey for cannabis advocates, their efforts have finally paid off. Senate Bill 311 was passed earlier this year. This California bill allows medical marijuana in hospitals. In other words, patients will be able to legally use medical marijuana depending on their condition. This is a big step forward in marijuana legalization and acceptance. However, this still leaves open questions regarding how medical marijuana in hospitals will affect patients and medical institutions. 

Medical Marijuana & Chronic Pain

Cannabis has long been known for its healing properties. This may have to do with how cannabis has anti-inflammatory properties and can help ease anxiety as well. In fact, cannabis can have positive effects on patients suffering from chronic pain

According to a study conducted by a team from Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital in Boston, chronic pain can be effectively treated with medical marijuana. This is especially true for patients suffering from arthritis, joint pain, neuropathy, and many other types of chronic pain conditions. 

Moreover, medical marijuana is a better alternative to addressing chronic pain than its pharmacy counterparts, such as opioids. The legalization of medical marijuana use in hospitals can potentially reduce the opioid dosage in patients’ medication. Ultimately, this will decrease opioid-related deaths. 

Senate Bill 311 Allows Medical Marijuana in Hospitals

Senate Bill 311, also known as Compassionate Access to Medical Cannabis Act or Ryan’s Law, was introduced in February by Senator Ben Hueso from San Diego. This was actually the second attempt at introducing a bill that would allow medical cannabis in healthcare facilities. 

In the past, Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed the bill. Although he expressed support for the use of medical cannabis in healthcare facilities, he emphasized the potential conflicts this would bring upon hospitals. Because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, this could negatively affect federal funding, grants, or contracts for hospitals. This was two years ago, and according to Huseo, times have changed. 

Senate Bill 311 was revised in a way that is well-thought-out and fits into the pain-management prescription that hospice facilities use. Additionally, it only allows patients who are suffering from a terminal illness to be eligible for the use of medical cannabis in the hospital. The revisions may have been what allowed Gov. Newsom to sign the bill in September. 

Sen. Hueso has constantly pushed for the legalization of medical marijuana in hospitals. He believes that allowing these patients to use cannabis instead of heavy opiates can help them in their last moments. “This is a simple, yet critical, move that will provide relief, compassion, and dignity to terminally-ill Californians.”

Ryan’s Law

As previously mentioned, Senate Bill 311 is also known as Ryan’s Law. This is actually due to an actual patient’s experience regarding lack of access to medical marijuana in hospitals. The legislation was partly inspired by Ryan Bartell’s experience as a patient suffering from pancreatic cancer. 

Ryan was a California native and US Coast Guard veteran who passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2018. He spent his final weeks in a hospital. His prescriptions mostly consisted of morphine and fentanyl for his pain. Unfortunately, this medication kept Ryan in a sleeping state, making it difficult for his family to interact with him.

Despite his family’s attempt at implementing medical cannabis into his treatment, the hospital would not allow it. Ryan’s father, Jim Bartell, made the decision of transferring him over to a healthcare facility that did allow medical cannabis. For the remaining weeks, Ryan was able to improve his quality of life and remain awake with his family. 

“Looking at each other, holding Ryan’s hand and telling him how much I loved him during his final moments would not have been possible without the medicinal cannabis,” Jim explained. 

California Bill Allows Medical Marijuana in Hospitals: What does this mean?

The main concern of this bill would be whether it affects the federal funding received by hospitals. Marijuana is still considered illegal under federal law, therefore it could potentially present issues to healthcare facilities. 

Senator Hueso ensured there would be no issues when working on Senate Bill 311. He sent a letter to the head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator to provide clarification on the issue. They declared that there isn’t a specific federal regulation that addresses this issue. On the other hand, there aren’t any cases where funding has been pulled from hospitals that allow medicinal cannabis. 

California is not the first state to allow medical cannabis in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. States like Main and Connecticut have also legalized the usage of medicinal marijuana by hospitalized patients.