Pages tagged "organ transplant"

Effective grassroots advocacy gave a 51-year old mother and grandmother a chance to survive

Tamara HowardUPDATE: ASA is happy to report that Tamra received her organ transplant in June and is currently recovering at home. Hers is the first life saved by AB 258, the Medical Cannabis Organ Transplant Act!

Norman Smith died from inoperable liver cancer in 2011, after he was dropped from the organ transplant list for using legal medical cannabis to treat his debilitating symptoms. His tragic story and tireless advocacy for patients’ rights inspired members of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) to stand up for medical cannabis patients and demand legal protection.

That work paid off when California Governor Jerry Brown signed the ASA-sponsored Medical Cannabis Organ Transplant Act, known as AB 258, in July. Authored by Assembly Member Marc Levine (D-San Rafael), the new law prevents anyone in the state from being denied an organ transplant just because they use legal medical cannabis.

Pictured: Medical cannabis patient Tamra Howard, with a good reason to smile

Norman was a vocal advocate for organ transplant patients who use medical cannabis, and his efforts led directly to the adoption of AB 258 this year. “It’s probably too late for me, but I hope it helps the next guy,” he said before his tragic and preventable death in 2011. Norman did do it for the next guy. ASA has just learned of the first medical cannabis patient to be re-added to the organ transplant waiting list after being denied a place based on her medical cannabis use. 

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California State Senate Passes AB 258 With Overwhelming Majority

CA Asm. Marc LevineThe California Senate approved AB 258, the Medical Cannabis Organ Transplant Act, earlier today by a margin of 33-1.  AB 258 prohibits discrimination against medical cannabis patients in the organ transplant process, unless a doctor has determined that medical cannabis use is clinically significant to the transplant process. Medical cannabis patients in California are routinely removed from the organ transplant waiting list if they test positive for cannabis use – even legal doctor-recommended medical cannabis.  AB 258 was authored by Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) and sponsored by Americans for Safe Access (ASA).

“AB 258 is about fundamental fairness and compassion. Legal medical cannabis patients should never face a choice between their doctor-recommended medicine and a life-saving organ transplant,” said Don Duncan ASA’s California Director. “AB 258 will help the law catch up with science, which has shown that medical cannabis patients are just as likely to benefit from an organ transplant as other patients.”

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AB 258 by CA Assembly Member Marc Levine (D-San Rafael)

CA Assembly Member LevineLegislation sponsored by Americans for Safe Access (ASA) entered the home stretch on Wednesday when the California Senate Health Committee approved AB 258, the Medical Cannabis Organ Transplant Act. The bill by Assembly Member Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) will protect medical cannabis patients from discrimination in the organ transplant process. AB 258 must now be approved by the full Senate and signed by the Governor. A final vote is expected next week.

Patients in California who test positive for cannabis use are routinely denied a place on the organ transplant waiting list – even if they are using legal medical cannabis. This widespread policy at hospitals and transplant centers is based on outdated policies that classify legal medical cannabis use as “drug abuse.” Patients have died after being denied an organ transplant based solely on their use of doctor-recommended medical cannabis, and others are at risk right now.


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Aspergillus and Organ Transplants

AspergillusAspergillus is a common fungus found on plants, including herbs and food crops. It can be harmful if ingested, although toxic exposure is rare. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “most people breathe in Aspergillus spores every day without getting sick.” Aspergillus can be found cannabis flowers that were improperly cured or stored while still damp. Cannabis that is properly cured and stored is unlikely to be contaminated.

There is a single published case that links Aspergillus consumption with the death of a 34-year old bone marrow transplant patient. (Chest, Hamadeh, 988 Aug;94(2):432-3).  ASA California Director Don Duncan talked with the author of that report. Dr. Hamadeh, on the telephone in March of 2015. She said that Aspergillosis, a clinical infection resulting from exposure to the Aspergillus, is extremely rare, despite the fact that the fungus is ubiquitous.

Numerous professional testing laboratories are now testing legal medical cannabis for contaminates, and routine screening for microorganisms would detect Aspergillus and a wide range of other natural contaminates. No unusual equipment or expertise is necessary to detect Aspergillus. Laboratories can and do screen for it today. Doctors can and should recommend that patients with an immune system compromised by illness or anti-rejection medication consume only laboratory tested medical cannabis.

The risk of being denied a life-saving organ transplant far outweighs the remote risk associated with developing Aspergillosis. 

Important developments in the federal courts and the state legislature

Steph ShererASA Executive Director Steph Sherer visited six cities in California last week to talk about local and state medical cannabis policies. ASA will be reporting back on what she heard from members about our proposed “Points of Unity” for commercial medical cannabis regulations in the state and other issues soon.  

A federal judge in Sacramento said last week that she was “very seriously” considering whether or not medical cannabis is misclassified by the federal government. Her ruling will affect nine defendants in federal court, but it may also have national implications. In a separate case, a judge granted the Berkeley Patients Group a temporary reprieve in a federal civil asset forfeiture case.

Assembly Member Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) introduced ASA-sponsored legislation to protect medical cannabis patients who need an organ transplant. Meanwhile, lawmakers have started the controversial debate about regulating commercial medical cannabis activity in the state. Read about a new law enforcement-sponsored bill to license medical cannabis business and another measure to prevent negative environmental impact associated with medical cannabis growing below. These are just two of the growing number of medical cannabis bills on the table in Sacramento this year.

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Complete the CA Discrimination Survey for Medical Cannabis Patients

People in a groupAlthough medical cannabis has been legal in California for more than eighteen years, legal patients still face pervasive discrimination. I hear from patients facing discrimination in employment, housing, parental rights, or access to health care every week. This discrimination can have serious consequences for patients – sometime even lethal consequences. ASA is sponsoring legislation this year to prevent discrimination against legal patients who need organ transplants, in part, because at least one member has already died after being denied a place on the organ transplant waiting list due to his medical cannabis use.

Do you face discrimination as a medical cannabis patient? Are you a victim or workplace drug testing? Have you been denied prescription pain medication because you use medical cannabis? Have your parental or custody rights been infringed? ASA needs to hear from you. Our 26-question CA Discrimination Survey will help us talk to lawmakers, the media, and others about the very real discrimination faced by medical cannabis patients in California today.

The survey data could lead to better laws, court decisions, and untimely, less stigma about medical cannabis use. Please take a couple of minutes to complete the mostly yes-or-no questions, and then forward the link to others who might have useful input –

Thanks for helping!

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CMA opposes denying organ transplants for legal medical cannabis patients

CMA logoCorrection (12/09/2014) - The original version of this blog contained links to an old version of the CMA resolution. The links here have been updated with the amended version, as approved on Saturday.

The California Medical Association (CMA) made a major decision about medical cannabis today that could reduce needless suffering and preventable death for legal patients who need organ transplants. The CMA House of Delegates voted unanimously to approve Resolution 114-16, which declares that the CMA opposes using cannabis use as grounds for denying an organ transplant.  

This is an important and timely victory for some of the sickest medical cannabis patients in California. Legal medical cannabis patients are routinely denied a place on the national organ transplant waiting list or removed from the list when they test positive for cannabis use. These patients face a terrible dilemma: forgo the proven benefits of medical cannabis use or miss out on a potentially life-saving transplant. Patients using doctor-recommended cannabis to treat chronic pain, cancer, HIV/AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, and other serious conditions should never have to make that choice.

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Sign the petition for organ transplant patients

Patient and surgeonContents:

  • Message from the CA Director: Sign the petition for organ transplant patients
  • State & Local News: National, California, San Francisco, Riverside County, San Luis Obispo
  • Public Meetings & Events: Placerville, Santa Rosa, Washington DC, and more
  • Court Support: Redding, Santa Ana, Los Angeles
  • Take Action Now: Expand the Green Zone (SF), Join the ASA-CCSA Discussion List, Support the Medical Marijuana Organ Transplant Act
  • ASA Website Spotlight: Legal
  • Chapter & Affiliate Meetings: San Francisco, Yuba County, Sonoma County

Voters in California legalized medical cannabis when they approved the Compassionate Use Act eighteen years ago. We have come a long way since then, but we still have important work to do here in California. Legal patients face pervasive discrimination in employment, housing, parental rights, and access to health care. ASA and other advocates are working hard to change this, and we need your help to do it.

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Medical Cannabis in California - Live Google Hangout

Let’s hang out and talk about medical cannabis in California tomorrow night. Join ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer and me for a live Google Hangout online at 7:00 PM. We will be talking about:

  • The outcome of a key vote on a medical cannabis licensing bill in the Assembly Public Safety Committee on Thursday afternoon – including a discussion of the latest amendments
  • A bill that allows patients and caregivers to receive reasonable compensation if their legal medical cannabis or plants are damaged or destroyed by the police
  • A proposed bill that will save patients’ lives by preventing discrimination against medical cannabis users in organ transplants
  • Local bans, referendums, and initiatives
  • The biggest and most important citizen lobby day yet on Monday, August 4, in Sacramento

The decisions lawmakers make this summer could affect you and your loved ones for years to come. You need to be a part of the conversation, so don’t miss this chance.

What:  Medical Cannabis in California - A Live Google Hangout with Steph Sherer & Don Duncan

When:  7:00 PM (PDT) * Thursday, June 26, 2014

Copy this URL into your web browser to join the conversation:

A Google Hangout is a live interactive event online, which you can join on your computer or mobile device. The event is free.

Don’t forget to register and make travel arrangements for the California Citizen Lobby Day in Sacramento on Monday, August 4, 2014. I will make an appointment for you to meet with your Assembly Member and Senator when you register.

See you tomorrow night!

Equal access to health care for legal medical cannabis patients

Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 258, the Medical Cannabis Organ Transplant Act on July 6, 2015!  AB 258 prohibits discrimination against medical cannabis patients in the organ transplant process, unless a doctor has determined that medical cannabis use is clinically significant to the transplant process. Medical cannabis patients in California have been routinely removed from the organ transplant waiting list if they test positive for cannabis use – even legal doctor-recommended medical cannabis.  AB 258 was authored by Assembly member Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) and sponsored by Americans for Safe Access (ASA).

ASA will be reaching out to doctors and hospitals in the Fall and Winter of 2015 and 2016 to educate them about the Medical Cannabis Organ Transplant Act and the science related to medical cannabis use and organ transplants. See the tabs to the right and below for more information on these topics. 

Are you a legal patient who has been denied an organ transplant based on your use of medical cannabis? ASA wants to hear from you. Contact California Director Don Duncan at or call (916) 449-3975.


Voters in California adopted the Compassionate Use Act (CUA), known as Proposition 215, in 1996. The initiative removed criminal penalties for cannabis-related crimes for people with a recommendation for medical cannabis use from a doctor. However, according to California Supreme Court case law, the CUA does not protect legal patients from civil liabilities or discrimination based on their medical cannabis use. California patients face pervasive discrimination in employment, housing, parental rights, and access to health care. One of the most tragic examples of this discrimination is seen in cases where patients lawfully using medical cannabis under a doctor’s recommendation are removed from the waiting list for an organ transplant. This can cause unnecessary suffering and hardship, and in some cases, has already resulted in death.

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is the nation’s leading medical cannabis patients’ advocacy organization. We hold that denying a patient access to an anatomical gift based solely on his or her status as a medical cannabis patient is harmful and unfair. Law-abiding medical cannabis patients should enjoy the same standard of care and access to health care services as everyone else. Because the consequence for denying organ transplants can be severe or lethal, ASA strongly believes that California law should prevent discrimination against medical cannabis patients in determining the recipient of an anatomical gift.


ASA member Norman Smith lawfully used medical cannabis as part of his treatment for liver cancer. He was removed from the Wait List by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after testing positive for medical cannabis use in 2011. Program policies required that he test negative for medical cannabis for six months before requesting a new place on the list. Sadly, Mr. Smith died before he could be placed back on the list, a tragic and avoidable loss of life.

Unfortunately, Mr. Smith is not alone. Toni Trujillo was denied a life-saving kidney transplant at Cedars-Sinai the following year based on her cannabis use, which the transplant center called “substance abuse.” Yami Bolanos, 58, is an eighteen-year liver transplant survivor, who was warned that she would be ineligible for a re- transplant by the same doctor at UCSF that recommended her medical cannabis use. Richard Hawthorne, another patient in need of a liver, was denied a transplant by Stanford Medical School last year, despite a friend offering to be a donor.  

It is difficult to determine how many other potential recipients have already suffered needlessly or even died as a result of the outdated polices barring medical cannabis use for recipients of anatomical gifts. While we cannot intervene in every case individually, and tragically, many victims may be suffering or dying in anonymity, urgent legislative action is required to prevent unnecessary suffering or another tragedy.