Prepackaged marijuana flowers are ready for customers at Apothekare in Misssion Valley.
Prepackaged marijuana flowers are ready for customers at Apothekare in Misssion Valley. Photo by Chris Stone

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed “Ryan’s Law,” legislation by state Sen. Ben Hueso requiring that hospitals and healthcare facilities allow terminally-ill patients to use medical cannabis for pain relief instead of opiates.
 
“It is inconceivable to me that, in a state where medical cannabis was legalized more than 25 years ago, those in deepest suffering receiving treatment in our state’s healthcare facilities cannot access this proven, effective, and prescribed treatment,” said Hueso, who represents south San Diego County, after the governor’s signature on Tuesday.

“Instead, terminally-ill patients in California healthcare facilities are given heavy opiates that rob them of their precious last moments with family and friends,” Hueso said. “This is a simple, yet critical, move that will provide relief, compassion and dignity to terminally-ill Californians.”

Senate Bill 311 requires healthcare facilities to offer cannabis as an option, while restricting the manner in which a patient stores and uses the drug to ensure the safety of other patients, guests and staff.

The legislation does not apply to patients receiving emergency care, and smoking and vaping of cannabis is expressly prohibited. And there are safeguards to protect hospitals in case of conflict with federal anti-marijuana laws.
 
The bill is known as “Ryan’s Law” after Ryan Bartell, a California native and Coast Guard veteran who died in 2018 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Bartell was given morphine and fentanyl in his final weeks, leaving him unable to stay awake for family and friends.

His family ultimately moved Bartell to another facility that would permit medical cannabis, allowing him a quality of life during his final days.
 
“In the invaluable last days as Ryan fought stage 4 pancreatic cancer, I first-handedly experienced the positive impact medical cannabis had on my son’s well-being, as opposed to the harsh effects of opiates,” said Jim Bartell, recalling his son’s experience.

“Looking at each other, holding Ryan’s hand and telling him how much I loved him during his final moments would not have been possible without the medical cannabis,” he said.

The legislation was co-sponsored by Sen. Brian Jones, who represents East County.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.