A Quick Dab — New California Law Requires Healthcare Facilities to Permit Medical Cannabis Use

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On Sept. 28, 2021, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 311, also known as Ryan’s Law, to allow terminally ill patients who have a valid medical cannabis card under California’s Compassionate Use Act to use medical cannabis in a healthcare facility (excluding chemical dependency recovery and state hospitals).

The law applies only to terminally ill patients, defined as individuals diagnosed with “a medical condition resulting in a prognosis of life of one year or less, if the disease follows its natural course.” The law does not apply to any patients receiving services in a facility’s emergency department and does not require healthcare facilities to recommend the use of medical cannabis or include medical cannabis in a patient’s discharge plan. Healthcare facilities should take immediate steps to comply as the law explicitly states that a healthcare facility may not prohibit a patient’s use of medical cannabis even though cannabis is an illegal Schedule 1 controlled substance under federal law.

Additional key provisions include requirements for healthcare facilities to:

  • Document the use of medical cannabis in the patient’s medical record.
  • Develop written guidelines for the proper storage and use of medical cannabis.
  • Ensure medical cannabis is stored in a locked container to ensure the safety of hospital employees, other patients and guests.
  • Prohibit patients from smoking or vaping medical cannabis.

Compliance with the law is not a condition for obtaining, retaining or renewing a healthcare facility license. The law allows healthcare facilities to suspend compliance in limited situations if a federal regulatory agency, the U.S. Department of Justice or the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services: (i) takes enforcement action against a healthcare facility; (ii) issues a rule that prohibits the use of medical marijuana in a healthcare facility; or (iii) prohibits compliance with a state-regulated medical marijuana program.

Healthcare facilities should give serious consideration to the risks associated with the use and storage of medical cannabis in a healthcare facility and carefully develop comprehensive policies, procedures and staff training measures to ensure compliance.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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