Oregon Health and Science University Hospital (OHSU) in Portland has decided to ease their rules relating to marijuana use and organ transplants. In the past, the hospital required six months of negative drug tests before a patient would be allowed onto the waiting list for a liver transplant. Now, under the updated rules, marijuana users are allowed to enter the waiting list as long as they have a single drug test that turns up negative.
This new rule applies to liver, pancreas, kidney, and heart transplant patients. It also applies to the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center, which is the only other facility in the state to perform liver transplants. Doctors decided to change the rules after seeing responsible medical marijuana patients turned away from receiving transplants.
According to Dr. Willscott Naugler, a liver specialist and medical director for the liver transplant program at OHSU, “If you had a beer last weekend, no one would say you are an alcoholic. You might be. But it doesn’t mean you are. We have taken the same approach to marijuana. If you had it last weekend, you may not have an abuse problem.”
Currently, there are no federal guidelines related to medical marijuana patients and organ transplants. Each hospital is allowed to determine their guidelines. This has led to issues recently for patients in California, who have been denied life saving transplants due to their medical marijuana use.
Each year, OHSU performs approximately 60 liver transplants, 100 kidney transplants, 14 pancreas transplants, and 20 heart transplants.