California senator wants feds to clarify medical marijuana use in hospitals

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The lawmaker is looking to protect hospitals from losing federal funding

While it is true that the benefits of marijuana are becoming clearer every day for countless patients, it is still not known what the federal government’s position is regarding its use in hospitals. That’s why a California senator is asking the director of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide clarification on the relationship between marijuana and health care facilities in legal states.

State Senator Benson Hueso’s idea is to get a clearer picture when it comes to using medical cannabis for terminally ill patients without jeopardizing federal funds. To that end, he sent a letter late last week to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. Pro-legalization Governor Gavin Newsom declined to sign off on a bill aimed at addressing the problem two years ago because confusion abounds about the potential implications of allowing marijuana use in healthcare facilities.

Hueso simply does not want to sit idly by and that is why he has decided to introduce a very similar version of the legislation for this session, which has already received the green light from an Assembly committee and by the full Senate. If it gets a little extra push on the Assembly floor, it could be headed to Newsom’s desk at a later date.

“Ryan’s Law would require hospitals and certain types of health care facilities in the state of California to allow a terminally ill patient to use medical cannabis for treatment and/or pain relief,” Hueso wrote in the letter to federal officials, with whom he is asking to meet to discuss the issue. “Currently, whether or not medical cannabis is allowed is left up to hospital policy, and this creates problems for patients and their families seeking alternative, more natural medication options in their final days.”

The doubt comes primarily because Hueso said his office had been informed by CMS months ago that there are currently no federal regulations in place to address this issue and that so far, the agency has not heard of any cases in which funds have been withdrawn simply because a hospital allows medical cannabis to be used on its patients.