California Bill to Allow Medical Cannabis in Hospitals Heads to Governor’s Desk

The Compassionate Access to Medical Cannabis Act or Ryan’s Law would allow patients in California with serious conditions to use non-smokable medical cannabis inside of hospitals. After receiving approval in California’s Assembly and Senate, Ryan’s Law and a bill regulating smokable hemp products both headed to the governor’s desk, amid a recall election.

If and when it’s signed by the governor, Senate Bill 311 or Ryan’s Law would allow terminally ill patients to use medical cannabis in healthcare facilities. The proposal prohibits patients, however, from inhaling or vaping herbal cannabis products. It also restricts the use of any forms of cannabis in emergency rooms.

Members of the California Assembly and Senate approved legislation and sent a bill to the Governor’s desk to allow the use of medical cannabis products within hospitals and other eligible health care facilities. 

The California State Assembly voted 57-1 to approve the bill on September 9, and the Senate approved the other chamber’s amendments in a 36-1 vote the next day.

The bill was pushed by State Senator Ben Hueso, who has fought to allow cannabis use in medical facilities for terminally ill patients repeatedly. In July, Hueso sent a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, asking them to provide clarification on whether hospitals in legal cannabis states can allow terminally ill patients to use medical cannabis without jeopardizing federal funding.

The bill “would require specified types of health care facilities to allow a terminally ill patient’s use of medicinal cannabis within the health care facility, subject to certain restrictions,” it reads. “The bill would require a patient to provide the health care facility with a copy of their medical marijuana card or written documentation that the use of medicinal cannabis is recommended by a physician. The bill would require a health care facility to reasonably restrict the manner in which a patient stores and uses medicinal cannabis to ensure the safety of other patients, guests, and employees of the health care facility, compliance with other state laws, and the safe operations of the health care facility.”

Lawmakers approved a similar bill in 2019, but it was vetoed by Governor Gavin Newsom who expressed concerns that it create a conflict between federal and state law. 

Representatives from both HHS and the governor’s office have recently reached out to Hueso to say they’re continuing to look into the matter.

The senator’s legislation was partly inspired by the experience of a father whose son died from cancer and was initially denied access to cannabis at a California hospital. Jim Bartell did eventually find a facility that agreed to allow the treatment, and he has said his son’s quality of life improved dramatically in those last days.

The U.S. Hemp Roundtable claims that they’ve reached an agreement and expect Governor Newsom to sign the hemp-derived CBD bill. “We’re excited to report that a final deal has been reached with Governor Gavin Newsom to move to final passage of AB 45, our long term effort to explicitly permit the retail sale of hemp-derived extracts such as CBD in California,” a U.S Hemp Roundtable release reads. However, it’s unclear if the governor will sign Ryan’s Law, as he vetoed similar legislation earlier due to confusion about federal implications.

AB 45 would allow the sale of hemp-derived CBD extracts outside of licensed cannabis dispensaries. The Senate in a 29-2 vote on Wednesday. The Assembly concurred with amendments and gave final passage to the bill in a 56-3 vote on Thursday.

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Governor of Colorado Pens Letter Urging Legitimate Cannabis Banking

As Democrats in Congress appear eager to finally tackle comprehensive marijuana reform, Colorado Governor Jared Polis hopes they address one particular cannabis policy first.

In a letter to a trio of Democratic senators on Friday, Polis urged them to pursue legislation implementing new banking and taxation measures that would enable financial institutions to work with cannabis businesses.

“I am thrilled that you are bringing forward a long-term, comprehensive solution that deschedules cannabis while enhancing social equity pathways,” wrote Polis, a Democrat serving his first term as governor of Colorado. “I hope that you will first focus your efforts on the two biggest barriers to the success of the cannabis industry: banking and IRS Code Section 280E (280E).

He said that “the cannabis industry has been stymied by 280E, which prevents these businesses from taking business-related deductions associated with the sale of cannabis.

“Congress must swiftly act to pass any measure, a number of which have been introduced in past sessions, to make an exception for legal cannabis businesses from 280E,” he wrote. “While the CAOA would address this issue by descheduling cannabis, a narrow measure focused on relieving cannabis businesses from the detrimental effects of 280E would expeditiously solve this problem.”

Polis wrote the letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senator Cory Booker and Senator Ron Wyden, who have thrown their weight behind the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), legislation that would effectively legalize marijuana on the federal level. 

The bill was introduced in draft form by the three Democratic senators last month.

But while members of Congress continue to wrangle out the details of that legislation, Polis believes there is a ready-made cannabis reform bill just waiting to be passed: the SAFE Banking Act, which Polis backed as a member of Congress representing Colorado’s second district.

“Legislation to address these issues has more bipartisan support than ever before and can be passed in the short-term as you continue to work on the details of the CAOA,” Polis wrote in the letter.

The SAFE Banking Act, Polis said, “has passed the U.S. House of Representatives four times but has never been taken up by the Senate.

“As a Congressman, I co-sponsored Representative Ed Perlmutter’s SAFE Banking Act because it is essential to bringing cannabis payments out of the shadows,” Polis wrote. “Medical and recreational cannabis sales in the U.S. were estimated to total $17.5 billion last year, but because of antiquated federal banking regulations, almost all cannabis transactions are cash-based. Not only are cash-only businesses targets for crime, cannabis businesses are further disadvantaged compared to other legal businesses by being unable to open bank accounts or obtain loans at reasonable rates.”

Polis continued to explain that it’s harmful for an industry as successful and large as cannabis industry to be forbidden from legitimate banking institutions. Polis continued, “The cannabis industry is simply too large to be prohibited from banking opportunities, and the Senate must remedy this harm by bringing this measure up for a vote in the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs immediately.”

Polis, a longtime cannabis reform advocate, wrote the letter amid growing signs that Democrats are poised to deschedule marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act, a move that would finally put the federal government in line with states like Colorado that have already legalized pot.

Schumer said earlier this year that Democrats were ready to seriously tackle the issue––even as President Joe Biden remained wary of legalization.

“We will move forward,” Schumer said. “[Biden] said he’s studying the issue, so [I] obviously want to give him a little time to study it. I want to make my arguments to him, as many other advocates will. But at some point we’re going to move forward, period.”

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New York Governor Vows to Launch Cannabis Industry That Cuomo Stalled

New York Governor Kathy Hochul—who replaced the disgraced former governor Andrew Cuomo—promised to pick up where Cuomo failed, and get the state’s adult-use cannabis market off the ground. New York residents grew wearisome, waiting for the industry to materialize as the former governor was consumed with scandals.

For background, former governor Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature approved the law last March that legalized adult-use cannabis in New York. But Cuomo became embroiled in a dispute with the state Senate, so he didn’t nominate an executive director for the new Office of Cannabis Management—nor did he name appointees to the Cannabis Control Board, even though the Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act was passed several months ago.

This left the state’s cannabis industry in a state of limbo, because without the Cannabis Control Board in operation, licenses and new rules cannot be approved.

Cuomo’s scandals came to a head earlier this month. Within a week of a report detailing 11 substantiated women’s allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault against Governor Cuomo, he was gone. 

On August 10, former governor Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation, effective August 24—automatically making Hochul governor, who was officially sworn in on the same day his resignation took effect. That made Governor Hochul New York’s first female governor in its history. One of the things she plans on doing differently is tackling cannabis reform, which has dragged on for too long in New York.

Governor Hochul’s representatives confirmed that she plans on filling critical cannabis positions as a priority. “Nominating and confirming individuals with diverse experiences and subject matter expertise, who are representative of communities from across the state, to the Cannabis Control Board is a priority for Gov. Hochul,” the new governor’s spokesman, Jordan Bennett, told The New York Post. “We look forward to working with the legislature to keep this process moving forward,” the Hochul rep said.

According to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx), Hochul indicated to them also that she will move on the appointments to the Cannabis Control Board. “They have spoken about the need to make appointments to the board,” said Mike Murphy, a spokesman for Stewart-Cousins. 

Heastie said that Governor Hochul was clear about making cannabis a priority during a private meeting that took place on August 9. “She did say that that was something that she wanted us all to concentrate on—and we agreed,” Heastie said.

However, Rochester First reported that Governor Hochul did not discuss cannabis in particular during her first-ever address, but acknowledged her team agreed that cannabis will be a priority.

The First Female New York Governor

Not only is Governor Hochul New York’s first governor, but her appointment means that there are now nine female governors currently in office—tying the record for the highest number of female governors to date.

It represents a significantly more inclusive time for state leadership. Hochul joins Governors Kristi Noem, Kate Brown, Laura Kelly, Kay Ivey, Kim Reynolds, Gretchen Whitmer, Michelle Lujan Grisham and Janet Mills.

Several of the aforementioned governors have been active in cannabis reform, for better or for worse. Governor Kristi Noem, for instance, repeatedly delayed or fought against cannabis reform including South Dakota’s disputed adult use and medical cannabis bill.

Governor Hochul has served as Cuomo’s lieutenant governor since 2015. But as Hochul increasing sought to stress her distance from Cuomo it became more apparent that she would ascend to the throne.

But the new governor promised to do things very differently than the man whom she replaced in her new role. “No one,” Hochul said, “will ever describe my administration as a toxic work environment.”

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Governor of Illinois Signs Bill to Expand State’s Medical Marijuana Program

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed two bills on Monday that expanded access to the state’s medical marijuana program, which currently stands at over 80,000 patients. The legislation ensures the medical marijuana program’s status as a permanent system, and adds to the ways in which patients are able to access their cannabis.

“We’re telling each and every one of those patients, we’re on your side,” Pritzker said during Monday’s news conference.

Senate Bill 2023 ensures the permanency of the program and institutes 11 new qualifying conditions that are accepted for entry into the medical cannabis program. Those include autism, chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, osteoarthritis, anorexia nervosa, and polycystic kidney disease, among other conditions.

The new legislation also guarantees the right of patients to be able to have a home grow operation of up to five plants as of January of next year. Under current provisions, the cannabis plants must be out of public view, and in a locked area. Effective immediately, nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants will be able to certify patients for inclusion in the program.

Pritzker continues to make good on his campaign promises to ensure the state’s residents’ rights to marijuana. In June, the state legalized recreational marijuana. That legislation has sidestepped many of the issues other states are having with providing retroactive justice to those with past cannabis offenses by expunging and pardoning the records of some 800,000 individuals with prior charges. It takes effect at the start of 2020, and will ensure that the state’s residents may possess up to 30 grams of marijuana at any time. For out of state visitors, the limit will be 15 grams.

Senate Bill 455, another change made to the state’s marijuana policy on Monday, involved the kinds of cannabis access allowed to kids in their schools. Now, underage registered cannabis patients will be able to take their medicine on school grounds, granted that they are being supervised by school staff. That bill also ensures that no one under the age of 21 will be able to purchase smokable marijuana in the state.

This is not the only expansion to the state’s medical cannabis program. In February, the Opioid Alternative Pilot Program was implemented, ensuring that individuals with opioid abuse issues have a fast track to temporary access of medicinal cannabis.

Medical marijuana was originally instituted in the state when Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation into effect in 2013. Originally meant as a four-year program, it was seen as one of the strictest such programs in the nation due to its ban on patients growing their own medicine. Medical marijuana users were required to have a doctor’s written recommendation, and obtain a registered photo ID. Patients were allowed to have 2.5 ounces of cannabis every two weeks, and pledge not to use it in public or around children.

“We are ensuring only those suffering from the most serious diseases receive this treatment,” said the bill’s sponsor, state senator Bill Haine at the time. “This law takes additional steps to prevent fraud and abuse.”

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