Amanda Connor
Apr 03 2017 . 4 min read

The Right Stuff

The Right Stuff

Are cannabis patients covered by a Patient’s Bill of Rights?

Are cannabis patients covered by a Patient’s Bill of Rights?

By Amanda Connor, Connor & Connor

There are multiple perspectives on the “Patient’s Bill of Rights.” The term has been floating around for decades, typically when outlining the rights of a patient regarding their healthcare. More recently, in 2010, President Obama announced his version of the Patient’s Bill of Rights for the Affordable Care Act. But the Patient’s Bill of Rights, in whichever version or form, has many goals (both explicitly and implicitly within).

The original goals of the Patient’s Bill of Rights were to:

  1. Enhance patient confidence in the healthcare system;
  2. Show importance of the relationship between
  3. patients and providers; and
  4. Stress the roles of patients and providers in
  5. maintaining health.

These goals are pretty straightforward however, they can be interpreted broadly. For example, assuring the fairness and equality in our healthcare system is inherent in these goals. The right to feel safe and respected is also inherent. Additionally, the goals can be read to encourage patients to address problems, questions, and issues and encourage patients to stay active and informed about their health.

Other patient rights include the right to access information, meaning the patient has a right to easily understand information and full disclosure about their health. Patients also have a right to choose their healthcare providers and have access to emergency services, as well as to be free from discrimination. This particular patient right was highlighted in the Affordable Care Act and President Obama’s take on the Patient’s Bill of Rights – making it clear that healthcare providers could not discriminate against pre-existing conditions. Patients also have a say in their treatments and medical decisions, including the right to refuse treatment. Lastly, patients have a right to confidentiality over their medical history. The right to confidentiality was highlighted in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a 1996 Act to protect patients’ privacy.


Patient’s Rights Applied to the Marijuana Industry

When medical marijuana was legalized in Nevada, it made recipients of marijuana into patients. Those purchasing marijuana are often suffering from chronic pain, debilitating diseases, and other ailments that affect daily life. So naturally, it would seem the traditional Patient’s Bill of Rights (applying to all “patients”) also applies to medical marijuana patients. However, it is not that simple. The Patient’s Bill of Rights is most often seen on the federal level, and the federal government does not recognize state-approved medical marijuana.

But the general patient’s rights could still be applicable to the marijuana industry and many of these rights are presumed to still apply. For instance, medical marijuana patients can choose their dispensary and their healthcare provider from which they wish to obtain a patient card. Patients also have a say in their treatment by discussing strains and courses of treatment with experts and doctors. Additionally, patients do have some privacy rights regarding disclosure about medical marijuana status, however, this is a more limited right due to drug testing and some employment requirements. Lastly, and most importantly, patients have the right to access marijuana, which was a previously prohibited type of medicine.


Nevada Specific: Senate Bill 329

Nevada does not have an official Patient’s Bill of Rights for medical marijuana yet. A codified version does not exist but there are some versions floating around that typically vary with each medical center. So while there are some rights inherent in the law, they are not enumerated into a formal document. During this legislative session, Nevada State Senator Segerblom is attempting to formalize the Medical Marijuana Patients’ Bill of Rights starting with the introduction of SB 329 in the Senate on March 20. However, until that is passed, current law (despite no Bill of Rights) could be read to include some rights for medical marijuana patients, including: the right to access medical marijuana for qualifying medical conditions; the right to be free from criminal prosecution for ingestion or possession of medical marijuana for valid cardholders; the right to home cultivation in limited circumstances; the right to a caregiver if necessary; and the right to access medical marijuana dispensaries in Nevada. While these are limited, it is definitely a start, and it can be presumed that patients’ rights will only continue to grow in Nevada as legislation is made.