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California Approves Bill For Protection Of Medical Marijuana Users In Need Of Organ Transplants

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There could be hope in making it to the list of organ transplant hopefuls for those who have been receiving medical marijuana for treatment.

The use of marijuana for medical purposes has already been, for a while, accepted in California.

The Medical Cannabis Organization Act recalls [pdf] that in 1996 the state voted to adopt Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act, which legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

More than 75,000 people have registered Medical Cannabis Cards. Comprehensive public programs for medical cannabis are now also allowed in 23 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.

Many of these cannabis users, however, have been made ineligible for organ transplants because of their marijuana medication.

Health organizations set rules regarding the qualifications of patients for organ transplants and have opted not to include medical marijuana patients on the waiting list. A newly approved bill aims to make these patients qualified to possibly undergo organ transplants when needed.

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed the legislation.

According to medical studies, there is no significance in the difference of survival rates between patients using medical cannabis and those who do not, as far as organ transplant is concerned.

Normally, the type of organ, medical urgency of patients, blood, tissue, match of size with the donor, waiting list time and proximity to the donor are factors on which organ transplant is based.

The bill introduced by Assemblyman Marc Levine of San Rafael in February proposed to include Section 7151.36 to the Health and Safety Code, with regard to organ transplants. The bill basically prohibits hospitals, physicians, surgeons, procurement organizations and other persons from determining the recipient of an organ based on the recipient's qualification for medical cannabis.

Only when the use of marijuana has a medical significance according to the patient's physician or surgeon would the patient be disqualified for an organ transplant.

Medical marijuana is widely prescribed as a painkiller to cancer patients undergoing treatment. Those who support the bill say patients have been denied of organs simply because they are seen by some doctors as drug users.

The legislation, which will take effect in January 2016, aims to provide equal rights to both medical marijuana users and non-users in receiving organs for transplant.

Photos: Mark | Flickr

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