Compassionate Cannabis is Back in California
It’s an exciting time for compassionate cannabis act in the state of California. Thanks to Senate Bill 34 (SB-34), popularly known as the Dennis Peron and Brownie Mary Act, patients have access points for free, compassionate cannabis donations again. California residents can also celebrate Ryan’s Law, or Senate Bill 311 (SB-311), which now allows terminally ill patients to consume cannabis products during hospital stays without consequence.
While it’s been a long, unpredictable journey for compassionate care in California, medicinal cannabis patients are benefiting from some of the best compassion legislation in the county. This post explores the history of compassionate cannabis in California and how SB-34 and SB-311 are impacting patients’ lives and leading the way in compassionate care.
History of California Compassionate Cannabis Act
Dating back to 1996 when Prop 215 was first introduced, Californians began to have access to compassionate cannabis products. Thanks to the first state-wide medicinal cannabis voter initiative in the country, patients with life-threatening illnesses had legal access points for low-to-no-cost medicinal cannabis. Other states have since followed suit passing similar initiatives, but per usual when it comes to progressive legislation, California did it first.
While Prop 215 survived many years and thousands of patients were served through compassionate care collectives and other community organizations, a new proposition threatened California’s compassionate cannabis infrastructure. Prop-64, or the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, passed in 2016. While most California residents were celebrating the new law now allowing any adult over the age of 21 to consume cannabis without a medical marijuana recommendation, patients who depended on this medicine were beside themselves. Due to new tax requirements, businesses and groups were no longer able to sustain compassion donations.
Dennis Peron and Brownie Mary Act, SB-34
SB-34 sought to rewrite the wrongs created by adult-use legalization. Born from the original compassionate cannabis act, SB-34 was a massive win for the patients and organizers in the compassionate care community. SB-34 was named for two famous activists out of the Bay Area, or ground zero for the AIDS crisis and the catalyst for the medicinal cannabis movement. Each transplants from other US cities, Dennis Peron and Brownie Mary met sometime in the 1970s. Brownie Mary began selling her famous homemade pot brownies in Peron’s Castro district cannabis storefront. While the relationship began as business, it flourished in advocacy and a shared commitment to legalize medicinal cannabis for those suffering.
However, with all the celebrations, advocates know that there is still so much work to be done. One of the significant impacts of SB-34 is that it relieves the tax burden on companies across the supply chain who donate products or services. Cannabis brands could now donate medicinal cannabis products to patients without taxation. Thanks to SB-34, organizations with high hopes to support patients began sprouting up throughout the state. Although the excitement continues to fuel the work of these organizations, many of whom are non-profits, there is a looming deadline of 5 years for the California Senate bill. We can only hope that by then, organizers and patient advocates are in a position to propose updated compassionate cannabis legislation.
Ryan’s Law, SB-311
Also, thanks to the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, Ryan’s Law supports the ability of a terminally ill patient to safely use medicinal cannabis within specified health care facilities. These facilities are not required to provide cannabis to patients but are mandated not to interfere with a patient’s use of permitted products. For many patients suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDS and other terminal ailments, this law is necessary and long overdue. Due to the continued federal illegality of cannabis, patients have been forced to enter the hospital with only pharmaceutical remedies for pain management, nausea and more available.
Ryan’s Law is named for late San Diego, CA resident Ryan Bartell. Ryan died in April of 2018, just weeks after being diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. At Ryan’s sickest, he and his family struggled to find a facility that would permit cannabis use without any luck. Ryan dies at just 41-years-old. While Ryan’s Law was originally proposed and passed back in 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom ultimately vetoed the bill citing concerns over cannabis still being federally illegal and federal hospital funding concerns.
Organizations Doing Compassionate Cannabis Programs in California
Because of legislative victories and the patients and activists who fought for them, organizations like Weed for Warriors Project, This is Jane Project, Sweetleaf Collective, Green Wings Compassion and more are able to provide California patients with access to no-cost, regulated cannabis products. These organizations are doing the work to keep cannabis medicinal. Give them a follow or donate to support their mission.
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