The legal medical use of cannabis varies from state to state. A new bill in California would require hospitals to allow cannabis use by terminal patients.
Ryan Bartell died of stage 4 pancreatic cancer in 2018. He was the father of a 9-year-old boy. Before he died, the pharmaceutical pain killers he was on, including morphine and fentanyl, rendered him unable to interact with his son and other family members. He wanted to retain consciousness during his final days and asked his father, Jim, to help him. Jim arranged for Ryan to be moved to a hospital that allowed cannabis use, and Ryan was then able to spend his last two and a half weeks awake and alert, interacting with loved ones.
After his son’s death, Jim drafted a bill that would enable all terminally ill patients to use cannabis in hospitals. He presented it to Senator Ben Hueso, who became the bill’s sponsor. Working together on revisions, the two men and their staffs created a draft that addressed snares such as the federal prohibition of marijuana use. Under the bill's provisions, the cannabis used would be obtained by patients, not through the hospitals. Hospital staff would not be permitted to stop cannabis administration but could help if necessary.
“This bill, the Compassionate Access to Medical Cannabis Act or Ryan’s Law, would prohibit specified types of health care facilities from prohibiting or interfering with a terminally ill patient’s use of medical cannabis within the health care facility, subject to certain restrictions,” the current bill states. It passed in the California Legislature and, if pro-cannabis Governor Newsom signs it, as is expected, it will go into effect in January 2020.
Learn more about Ryan’s Law below.