There are tons of questions that overwhelm patients: how much cannabis to use, which delivery method is best, how often to take it, and much more. Under these circumstances, most patients are left to their own devices when it comes to deciding how to consume cannabis. And even then, doctors still do not feel they have the knowledge to prescribe cannabis as a medicine or as part of their therapy.
That said, we greatly limit the impact that cannabis could have on the lives of patients, especially those who are terminally ill. There is already an amazing body of evidence that cannabis can make life more manageable for people with cancer, struggling with chemotherapy and radiotherapy, Parkinson’s disease and more.
So why can’t patients receive cannabis-based medicines to the hospitalsupervised as they are with conventional drugs?
California is a pioneer
In December 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom made waves by signing legislation from Senator Ben Hueso that would provide residents with more choice of end-of-life options, with the requirement that certain healthcare facilities and hospitals allow terminally ill patients to use medical care. marijuana for pain relief or as part of their treatment.
“It is inconceivable to me that, in a state where medical cannabis was legalized over 25 years ago, those most deeply in pain and receiving treatment in our state’s healthcare facilities cannot access this proven, effective and prescribed treatment,” says Senator Hueso. “Instead, terminally ill patients in California healthcare facilities are being given heavy opiates that rob them of their precious last moments with family and friends. This is a simple, yet essential measure that will bring relief, compassion and dignity to terminally ill Californians.
The law, officially known as the SB 311 and given the Nickname Ryan’s Law, is named after California native Ryan Bartell, who was also a U.S. Coast Guard veteran who died in 2018 after battling pancreatic cancer. His final weeks were spent in the hospital, where he was given fentanyl and morphine to help him manage his pain and fall asleep. Her family tried to help her by giving her medical cannabis, but the facility said that was not allowed. As a result, his family had to spend valuable time looking for a facility that would then allow MMJ to be used. Unfortunately, he only lived a few more weeks. With this law in place, no other family or patient will have to go through this ordeal again.
“During the priceless last days that Ryan battled stage 4 pancreatic cancer, I personally experienced the positive impact of medical cannabis on my son’s well-being, as opposed to the detrimental effects of opiates,” explained Jim Bartell, sponsor SB311 and father of Ryan. “Medical cannabis is a great option for alleviating the pain and suffering of terminally ill people, but most of all it serves to bring compassion, support and dignity to patients and their families, during their loved ones’ final days. Looking at each other, holding Ryan’s hand and telling him how much I loved him during his final moments wouldn’t have been possible without medical cannabis.
SB 311 requires healthcare facilities to place reasonable restrictions on how a patient stores and uses their medical cannabis to ensure their safety, as well as that of other patients and employees of the medical facility. The rules do not apply to those receiving emergency care and in establishments where vaping and smoking cannabis are prohibited. Additionally, the law does not require the healthcare facility to be responsible for supplying cannabis to patients, nor does it require them to dispense cannabis from their in-house pharmacy.
Additionally, the law contains a port clause that would allow facilities to stop complying with the law if a federal agency initiates enforcement. However, the US Department of Justice is not allowed to use federal funds to meddle with state medical cannabis laws. The Biden administration has also indicated that it will not interfere with state MMJ laws. “With this confirmation from CMS and the safeguards of 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 safe operations of the healthcare facility,” says Senator Hueso.
Putting compassion into compassionate care
The term “compassionate care” is used with such carelessness. It is widely used, but inappropriately.
Since cannabis is still illegal under federal law, hospitals and healthcare facilities cannot let their patients use cannabis and thus run the risk of having to pay fines or even lose federal funding. But it’s in hospitals that you’ll find some of the patients who need cannabis the most, especially those in palliative care and dealing with terminal illness.
We need more bills like SB 311 across the country to ensure patients have access to cannabis when they need it and can take it safely under the supervision of trained healthcare professionals who have the confidence to do so.
Otherwise, there really is no compassion in compassionate care.
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