Ryan's Law would provide compassionate access for those most in need during end-of-life care

SACRAMENTO — Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) was joined by 11 of his colleagues in introducing a bill to provide compassionate access to medical cannabis in healthcare facilities for Californians who are terminally ill.

Senate Bill No. 311, known as Ryan’s Law, would require that hospitals and certain types of healthcare facilities in the State of California allow a terminally-ill patient to use medical cannabis for treatment and pain relief, according to a press release.


Due to the federal Drug-Free Workplace Act, which requires any institution receiving federal funds or grants to prohibit the use or distribution of  controlled substances in the workplace, hospitals across the Country have adopted policies prohibiting cannabis on their grounds. Despite the State’s approval of medical cannabis use for adults and children, and legalized recreational use for adults, California patients are currently unable to continue taking medical cannabis as part of their treatment plan while in the hospital — even if they possess a valid physicians’ recommendation.


Ryan’s Law seeks to close that gap by allowing those who most need compassion at the end of life to have access to medical cannabis in an in-patient setting, according to the release. The bill would authorize a healthcare facility to reasonably restrict the manner in which a patient stores and uses medical cannabis to ensure the safety of other patients, guests, and employees of the healthcare facility. It does not apply to patients receiving emergency care and smoking or vaping cannabis is expressly prohibited. Ryan’s Law also provides a safe harbor clause allowing healthcare facilities to suspend the program if there is federal intervention.


“Hospitals are caught in the disjoint between state and federal medical cannabis laws and, as a result, patients suffer,” said Hueso. “This is an issue not only of compassion, but of patient protection. Patients should be able to access the same medication that they find helpful outside of the hospital while in an inpatient setting, instead of subscribing to different medication regimens depending where they are that day.”


The release stated research has shown that medical cannabis possesses medicinal properties that can benefit a range of health conditions. It is most commonly used for pain relief and is also used to improve appetite and reduce nausea. In certain cases, it can be used as an alternative to heavy pain relievers like fentanyl and morphine.


“Terminally-ill patients deserve to spend their last days with as much quality of life as possible,” said Jim Bartell, Ryan’s father and sponsor of SB 311. “They are dying. Why wouldn’t we want that for them?”


Hueso is joined by a bipartisan group of 11 coauthors: Senators Steven Bradford, Anna Caballero, Brian Jones, Melissa Melendez, Scott Wiener; Assemblymembers Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, Wendy Carrillo, Cristina Garcia, Lorena Gonzalez, Jim Wood, and Phil Ting.

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