California Bans Doctors From Discriminating Against Cannabis Patients
Doctors who prescribe medications to cannabis patients are also protected by the new law.
Published on September 14, 2022

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill barring doctors from withholding treatment for medicinal cannabis patients. The legislation is part of a sequence of several weed bills that were passed by California legislators in late August.

Assembly Bill 1954 bans physicians and surgeons from “automatically denying treatment or medication to a qualified patient, as defined, based solely on a positive drug screen for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or report of medical cannabis use,” according to the legislation’s text. Medical professionals will now be required to conduct an evaluation of whether the patient’s cannabis treatment is “medically significant” to the new treatment in question.

Democratic Assemblymember Bill Quirk introduced the legislation.

Advocates say this is good news for people undergoing medicinal cannabis treatment in California, particularly those who consume cannabis for pain management. Previously, a positive test for THC was enough to block further treatment by a doctor in the state.

“We have heard innumerable complaints from chronic pain patients who have been denied treatment by their doctors or clinics simply for testing positive for cannabis,” said California NORML director Dale Gieringer in a statement. The state chapter of NORML sponsored the bill.

The legislation would also provide protection for doctors. Physicians will be shielded from penalties should they prescribe medication to a patient who is already undergoing medical marijuana treatment.

Other bills that were approved include the regulation of medicinal cannabis treatments for pets, and Senate Bill 988, which amends previous legislation passed regarding use of cannabis by authorized patients in hospitals, passing certain responsibilities for the storage of medical marijuana to caretakers.

Several other bills that were approved by legislators await the governor’s signature. These include the guarantee that medical cannabis patients have access to cannabis delivery services (which would prevent jurisdictions from banning such services in their area). A pending bill would allow California to participate in cannabis commerce with other states.

Assemblymember Maria Bonta’s bill to streamline cannabis conviction expungements is also awaiting Newsom’s signature. That bill would impact some 34,000 records, according to a report by the LA Times.

AB 2811 is another crucial bill sitting on Newsom’s desk after having been passed by legislators 41 to 15. It would ensure job protection for employees who use cannabis off the clock. Currently, employers in California — a state that legalized medical cannabis in WHEN and recreational marijuana in 1996 — are allowed to discriminate in hiring and firing because of such use. 

AB 2811 would also ban THC testing for all jobs besides those that qualify for certain exceptions, like federal employees or workers who are required to operate heavy machinery. The bill would not protect people who come to work high, however.

Follow Caitlin on Instagram, and catch her Spanish-language podcast Crónica on Spotify and Mixcloud. 

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Caitlin Donohue
Caitlin Donohue is a Bay Area-raised, Mexico City-based cannabis writer and author of She Represents: 44 Women Who Are Changing Politics and the World. Her weekly show Crónica on Radio Nopal explores Mexican marijuana culture and politics in the prohibition era. Follow Caitlin on IG @byrdwatch.
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