Second Medical Marijuana User Denied Transplant at Cedars-Sinai

June 14, 2012

Emma G. Gallegos, LAist

A second medical marijuana patient has been denied a transplant at Cedars-Sinai.

Patient Toni Trujillo was put on a kidney transplant list earlier this year after her existing kidney transplant began to fail but she was booted off the list because of her "substance abuse," according to Americans for Safe Access.

The group that advocates on behalf of medical marijuana says that Trujillo has been on dialysis for the past five years and has suffered from kidney problems most of her life. She actually moved to California from Pennsylvania two years ago to take advantage of treatment at Cedars. She told her physicians at the time that she was using medical marijuana as an appetite stimulant to increase her protein levels, and they never raised any concerns about it. Then in April she was told over the phone that she was being booted off the list because of her marijuana use. They considered it "substance abuse."

"I don't know why Cedars would deny me a transplant simply because I use a legal medication that works for me," Trujillo told the ASA. "I hope they listen to reason and change their misguided policy, if not for me then at least for the others who will certainly follow."

Another transplant candidate at Cedars-Sinai was booted off the list for his medical marijuana use last year. Norman Smith, a cancer patient, was diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer in 2009 but was removed from the transplant list because of his marijuana usage.

Using medical marijuana is frowned upon by the doctors who determine who gets on the competitive transplant list and who doesn't. At the time, Dr. Jeffrey Crippin, former president of the American Society of Transplantation and medical director at Washington University in St. Louis, told the Los Angeles Times, "If you are drunk or high or stoned, you are not going to take your medicine."

Both Trujillo and Smith were told that they have to abstain from marijuana for six months to re-qualify for the wait list and take drug abuse counseling for the same period, according to ASA. Both have given up medical pot, even though they said it was helpful in treating their health problems.



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