Two medical marijuana bills that were passed by the California legislature in September have been sent to Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom for his approval, but cannabis activists are concerned that he won’t sign the measures before an impending deadline. Senate Bill 305, also known as Ryan’s Law, would allow terminally ill patients to use medical cannabis in California hospitals while Senate Bill 34, the Dennis Peron and Brownie Mary Act, would permit licensed dispensaries to make donations of medical marijuana to patients.
Senate Bill 305 was written by Southern California resident Jim Bartell after his experience caring for his son Ryan, who died in 2018 after being diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. To ease his pain during treatment at a hospital in Washington, Ryan was given high doses of opioids, causing him to sleep most of the time. After four weeks, he had had enough and asked for cannabis instead.
“Dad, you need to get me off of this fentanyl, because I don’t want to spend my last few weeks sleeping,” Ryan Bartell told his father at the time.
“I promised him I would,” remembers Jim Bartell.
Many Hospitals Forbid Medical Marijuana
Ryan was not permitted to use cannabis in the hospital he was in, so Jim found one in Seattle that would allow him to and had him transferred. The day after beginning treatment, Ryan awoke alert and without pain. He was then able to spend the last two-and-a-half weeks of his life visiting with family and friends, including his wife and young son, to say goodbye. Only seven weeks after his initial diagnosis, cancer took Ryan’s life at the age of 42.
Jim went to work, researching and writing Ryan’s Law so terminally ill patients in California hospitals would be permitted to use medical cannabis. Even though California has approved medical marijuana use for adults and children, both state and federal law currently make it illegal for a patient to take medical cannabis onto hospital grounds.
“Ryan’s Law will provide terminally ill patients with an alternative for treating their pain, which will allow them to be alert and conversant and pain-free; and able to interact with family and friends in a meaningful way,” Jim Bartell wrote in an email to High Times. “This is about treating dying patients with dignity and providing them with a quality of life in their final days and weeks.”
Bill Would Allow Compassionate Cannabis Donations to Patients
The Dennis Peron and Brownie Mary Act, Senate Bill 34, would allow licensed dispensaries to make cannabis donations to medical marijuana patients in need. Under current California regulations, businesses are not permitted to give away cannabis, even for compassionate purposes. Terrie Best, the chair of the San Diego chapter of Americans for Safe Access, called on Newsom to sign the measure.
“Building compassion systems into cannabis distribution is the cornerstone of medical use laws,” Best told High Times. “Voters consistently opt for access to medicine. Reducing cost barriers is the right thing to do. Restricting avenues to patient assistance programs is just wrong.”
Although the two bills were passed unanimously in both the California Assembly and Senate weeks ago, Newsom has yet to sign them into law. With an October 13 deadline to sign the measures looming, some activists are worried that the governor will veto the bills and are urging the public to call (916) 445-2841 or email Newsom and ask him to sign the bills into law.