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.