Two years ago, Toni Trujillo came to California from Pennsylvania to receive specialized treatment from Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles. Trujillo suffers from kidney problems and has been on dialysis for the past five years. In addition to her treatment at Cedars-Sinai, Trujillo also began using medical marijuana to stimulate her appetite at the recommendation of a physician.
Now, after receiving treatment in Los Angeles for 2 years and being on the kidney transplant waiting list for 6 years, Trujillo is being denied a transplant due to her medical marijuana use, something that she was upfront about with her physicians at Cedars since she first began treatment there. This makes her the second medical marijuana patient to be denied a transplant at the hospital in the past year.
Trujillo was notified of her de-listing over the phone in April. She was given the reason of marijuana use being “substance abuse,” which made her unqualified to receive a transplant. She can re-qualify to be on the list by stopping her medical marijuana use and testing negative for marijuana in her system for 6 months in addition to participating in drug abuse counseling. Trujillo has opted to do so, but when she is put back onto the list she will be put at the bottom.
Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group, has written a letter to the hospital urging them to reconsider their decision. ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, author of the letter, said, “Denying necessary transplants to medical marijuana patients is the worst kind of discrimination. Cedars-Sinai would not be breaking any laws, federal or otherwise, by granting Toni Trujillo a kidney transplant, and it’s certainly the ethical thing to do.”
In the past, Cedars has defended their denial of transplants to medical marijuana patients because they are “substance abusers” and also because they could be exposed to Aspergillus, a certain type of fungus that could derail their recovery after receiving a transplant. However, there have been no studies done on medical marijuana use, Aspergillus, and negative side-effects after an organ transplant.