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Patients Waiting for Kidney Transplants Kicked Off Waiting List for Medical Marijuana Use


There are a lot of issues that still surround the medical use of cannabis – and in this case it’s whether or not people who need organ transplants should be disqualified from eligibility based on their use of medical marijuana. Unfortunately for patients in Maine this is the reality as at least two patients who both need a new kidney are being told that as long as they medicate with cannabis they will have to go without the life-saving transplant. A new bill introduced in legislature would ban hospitals from disqualifying patients solely based on their use of marijuana.

“I’ve tried so many pharmaceuticals and none of them worked, but the medical cannabis does,” Godfrey said. “It helps me function. It helps me take care of my kids.”

Many patients who choose medical marijuana have already been through all the traditional treatments for their condition without finding relief – and for those who have seen drastic changes to their quality of life after medicating with cannabis they don’t want to give that up. Sadly that is exactly what hospitals expect when a patient in need of a transplant tells them that they use medical cannabis – giving these patients no choice but to choose between having a life-saving procedure and using a medicine that provides them with real relief.

“We need this to change. It’s not fair. I’m not hurting anybody,” says Dostie. “If they would rather have me on food stamps, living off the state, living off welfare, then take my card away, make me sick and let me go stay in my house and sit behind my shade all day and do nothing because I can’t do anything because I’m too sick. What are the choices?”

According to the Maine Medical Center there is a reason for why patients are disqualified based on cannabis use – aspergillosis, a fungal infection caused by a specific fungus that is sometimes found on cannabis plants, among other places. Healthcare professionals say that the weakened immune system from a transplant would make such an infection a life-threatening condition. But patients don’t see it that way, they see the fact that they could die regardless without the surgery, and with the transplant they could live a much longer and healthier life than they are currently leading.

“You should not be discriminated against for the type of medicine you choose,” Godfrey said.

The Maine Medical Center says if anyone who was taken off the transplant waiting list due to their use of medical marijuana is able to re-qualify (meaning they decided to go with a different form of treatment to stay on the list) then they will be reprioritized on the list based on how long they have been on dialysis. If this bill were to go through and become law then this would no longer be an issue; patients would be able to remain on the transplant list regardless of how they choose to medicate.