Oct 13th, 2019 was the final deadline for California Governor Gavin Newsom to sign or veto the new bills passed up to him from the current legislative. 

In this session, the Governor signed ten diverse cannabis bills into law ranging from allowing parents and guardians to administer medical cannabis to their children on school premises to tax deductions for cannabis businesses.

Here are the new bills signed into law:

SB 223, Pupil health: administration of medicinal cannabis: school sites: Allows a parent or guardian of a pupil to possess and administer medicinal cannabis, as defined, at a school site to the pupil who is a qualified patient.

AB 420, The California Cannabis Research Program: Authorizes the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California San Diego to host the California Cannabis Research Program.

SB 185, Cannabis: marketing: Prohibits the advertising, labeling, packaging, or marketing of cannabis as grown in a California county unless the cannabis was grown in that county.

AB 404, AB 404, Commercial cannabis activity: testing laboratories: Authorizes a testing laboratory to amend a certificate of analysis to correct ‘minor errors’, as defined by the Bureau of Cannabis Control.

AB 37, Personal income taxes: deductions: business expenses: commercial cannabis activity: Allows legal cannabis businesses to deduct business expenses such as rent and utilities from the state personal income taxes.

SB 34, Cannabis: donations: Exempts retail cannabis businesses paying state taxes for medicinal cannabis, or medicinal cannabis products, donated for no consideration to a medicinal cannabis patient, as specified.

AB 1529: Cannabis vaporizing cartridges: universal symbol: Requires a cannabis cartridge or integrated cannabis vaporizer to bear an established universal symbol that is either engraved, affixed with a sticker, or printed in black or white.

AB 858, Cannabis: cultivation: Allows outdoor cultivation authorized by a Type 1C license at a maximum threshold of 2,500 square feet or less of total canopy size, with the option to meet an alternative maximum threshold to be determined by the licensing authority of up to 25 mature plants.

AB 1291, Adult-use cannabis and medicinal cannabis: license application: labor peace agreements: Requires cannabis businesses with 20 or more employees to enter into labor peace agreements. 

SB 595, Cannabis: state licensing fee waivers: needs-based applicants and licensees: local equity applicants and licensees: Requires the state’s licensing authority to develop and implement a program to provide a deferral or waiver for an application fee, a licensing fee, or a renewal fee for a needs-based applicant or needs-based licensee

Sadly, the Compassionate Access to Medical Cannabis Act or Ryan’s Law was vetoed by Newsom

SB-305, The Compassionate Access to Medical Cannabis Act, also known as Ryan’s Law, would have allowed terminally ill patients to use medical cannabis inside healthcare facilities. 

The bill, also known as Ryan’s Law, was created and named in honor of Ryan Bartell. Last year, Ryan was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer at the age of 42 and given weeks to live. As Ryan’s father Jim Bartell describes, Ryan was placed into a hospital that put him on morphine and fentanyl. The powerful opioids were sedating Ryan so much he was asleep most of the time. Ryan asked his father to take him off fentanyl. Ryan’s oncologist, who recommended and prescribed cannabis, but the facility Ryan was in did not permit cannabis medications. 

Jim moved Ryan to a different facility and begin using cannabis medications. After the first day of cannabis administration, Ryan was awake and alert, talking with family and friends, pain-free and seeing visitors. Ryan was able to enjoy the last few weeks of his life present with his loved ones.   

After Ryan passed, his father researched and drafted the Compassionate Access to Medical Cannabis Act. Senator Hueso agreed to author the bill.

Hueso publicly stated, “currently patients are being administered drugs that are either addictive or have other harmful side effects. These are currently approved by the Federal Government itself through the FDA. Patients are given drugs that are much more harmful to them than marijuana. That’s what we’ve come to understand in this modern world, marijuana is no longer a threat to these patients, it can really help them.”

The bill received 100% support from the senate. 

But once the bill went to Newsom for final signature, he vetoed the bill. According to Newsom in a letter to the members of the California State Senate, “I am returning Senate Bill 305 without my signature.

This bill would require a healthcare facility to allow terminally ill patients to use medical cannabis within the health care facility. Patients who are hospitalized and facing the end of their days should be provided with relief, compassion, and dignity.

California voters passed the Compassionate Use Act over two decades ago to allow for the medical use of cannabis. Since then, 32 more states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands have enacted similar laws. It is inconceivable that the federal government continues to regard cannabis as having no medicinal value. The federal government’s ludicrous stance puts patients and those who care for them in an unconscionable position.

Nonetheless, health facilities certified to receive payment from the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services must comply with all federal laws in order to receive federal reimbursement for the services they provide. This bill would create significant conflicts between federal and state law that cannot be taken lightly. Therefore, I begrudgingly veto this bill.”

Also vetoed was AB 1085, After school programs: substance use prevention: funding: cannabis revenue. This would have directed cannabis tax funds towards encouraging schools to establish a program pursuant to the After School Education and Safety Program, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, or the 21st Century High School After School Safety and Enrichment for Teens program that is designed to educate about and prevent substance use disorders or to prevent harm from substance abuse.

Hospitals are stuck between a rock and a hard place in terms of cannabis

In the U.S., most hospitals, nursing homes, and hospice programs receive federal funding, for example from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which makes them beholden to federal laws like the Controlled Substances Act, which says marijuana (cannabis) has no medicinal use. 

A patient in a state that allows medical cannabis cannot use medical cannabis in one of the federally funded facilities, even if they are a hospice patient. 

Situations like these, and laws, are slowly changing nationally – at the state level – in the U.S. For example, in 2015 Minnesota’s medical cannabis law was amended to extend protections and immunities to employees of health care facilities to possess medical cannabis while carrying out their employment duties. These protections include providing care or distributing medical cannabis to a patient on the Minnesota medical cannabis patient registry who is actively receiving treatment or care at the facility. 

Ryan’s story and bill are powerful reminders. Currently, in our lives, we may not be facing end of life choices for ourselves or someone we love. But, someday, we will be in this position. And when that day comes, we want options that keep us – or our loved one – awake, present, pain-free and able to spend quality time with their loved ones. 

Legalizing cannabis federally opens the door to this beautiful end of life gift. And until the day comes when cannabis is legalized federally, bills like Ryan’s Law are needed.