Legal and Scientific Basis
There is no legal or scientific basis for denying organ transplants to legal medical cannabis patients.
This widespread policy is not based on any state or federal regulations. There is no statue or regulation that would prevent a legal medical cannabis patient from receiving an anatomical gift, and neither UNOS or the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) have guidelines or policies to that effect. Medical cannabis patients are most commonly denied for testing positive for using a drug of abuse. That policy predates the emerging science about the medical use of cannabis and its legalization in thirty-four states and the District of Columbia.
The policy of denying anatomical gifts to legal medical cannabis patients is also not based on science. Clinical research shows that medical cannabis and compounds in medical cannabis have beneficial immune-suppressive and anti-inflammatory effects.[i] Compounds in medical cannabis may prolong graft survival in transplant patients,[ii] and there is no association between cannabis use and lower survival rates.[iii] Furthermore, hypothetical concerns about the harmful effects of contaminates can be easily addressed by an emerging industry aimed at testing commercially available medical cannabis for molds, mildew, pesticides, etc.
[i] Rom, S., & Persidsky, Y. (2013). Cannabinoid Receptor 2: Potential Role in Immunomodulation and Neuroinflammation. Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology. doi:10.1007/s11481-013-9445-9
[ii] Robinson, R. H., Meissler, J. J., Breslow-Deckman, J. M., Gaughan, J., Adler, M. W., & Eisenstein, T. K. (2013). Cannabinoids inhibit T-cells via cannabinoid receptor 2 in an in vitro assay for graft rejection, the mixed lymphocyte reaction. Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology, 8(5), 1239–1250. doi:10.1007/s11481-013-9485-1
[iii] Ranney, D. N., Acker, W. B., Holou, Al, S. N., Ehrlichman, L., Lee, D. S., Lewin, S. A., et al. (2009). Marijuana Use in Potential Liver Transplant Candidates. American Journal of Transplantation, 9(2), 280–285. doi:10.1111/j.1600-6143.2008.02468.x