SALEM, Oregon (Good Medical) – Oregon lawmakers may impose tougher restrictions on state organ transplant centers so they do not discriminate against marijuana users.

House Bill 2687, sponsored by Rep. Rob Nosse, D-Portland, would prevent medical providers from recommending that transplant candidates be removed from the waiting list for non-profit-managed organs. United Network for Organ Sharing because they have been tested positive for the pot, The Statesman Journal reported .

In Oregon, according to the organ network, more than 850 transplant candidates are on the waiting list. About 340 transplants were performed in Oregon last year.

For some, the symptoms before the surgery are serious enough, they turn to marijuana for medical purposes to get relief.

In response to Nosse's bill, major state transplant centers have challenged patients' refusal to use marijuana.

"No transplant candidates are excluded from the OHSU transplant program because it uses marijuana," said Tamara Hargens-Bradley, spokeswoman for the Portland Research Hospital.

However, "a patient who meets the criteria for addiction and does not follow the recommendations made by our selection committee could be refused for a transplant," she said.

Piseth Pich, Community Relations Manager at Portland-based Legacy Health, said, "Patients considered for a transplant are assessed using a number of factors that may include screening tests. marijuana positive, as we do with other factors such as alcohol or chronic opioids. use in the context of the overall risk / benefit ratio of the patient for a transplant. "

"That being said, it is difficult to identify a specific number of patients who might be less considered for a transplant based on a single factor," Pich said.

Patients who need organ donation can wait years before receiving one that suits them, if they receive one. Once the transplant is complete, the recipient's body could reject the foreign organ.

Representatives from OHSU and Legacy Health have expressed concern over Nosse's bill, highlighting the high demand for organs against the reduced number of transplants, as well as issues related to smoking tobacco use.

Dr. William Bennett, medical director of Legacy Transplant Services, said in a letter to lawmakers that the bill "attempts to legislate unsafe care standards for transplant medications".

"The consequences of marijuana for kidney transplant patients are well known and the damaging effects of marijuana have been well described in recent publications," Bennett said in his letter.

Smoking marijuana is as risky as smoking tobacco for cardiovascular health, he wrote. An OHSU manual for post-transplant care also states that pot use "can cause fungal infections of the lungs and brain."

In the letter, Bennett claimed that Legacy did not remove patients from a waiting list for a transplant simply because they were holding a marijuana card for medical purposes, but that patients should avoid using marijuana because of the risks.

"Transplantation centers should reserve the right to consider positive screening tests as other factors such as alcohol or chronic opioid use, in the context of the overall benefit / risk ratio of transplant patients," he said. he writes.

At the same time, Dr. Renee Edwards, head of medical services at OHSU, said in a letter that the medical provider was not considering "specifically using marijuana" as a "contraindication" to transplantation.

"Disorders associated with the use of current substances are however considered to be graft contraindications, as they can have a negative impact on the function of an organ and prevent a patient from complying with medical schemas. strict requirements to maintain the effectiveness of a transplant, "wrote Edwards.

Shortage poses another problem: in the United States, some 114,000 patients require a transplant, with only 36,500 organ transplants performed last year.

"Transplant providers like OHSU are forced to select transplant candidates fairly, while being good stewards of a rare resource and a valuable gift," wrote Edwards.

Testifying before the House of Commons Health Care Committee last month, Nosse introduced Robin Socherman of West Linn. She wants to become a kidney donor for her husband but can not because he uses marijuana.

Socherman said her husband, Jake, was suffering from a condition called polycystic kidney disease. "It's a hereditary disease, which is ultimately fatal," she said.

Her husband's kidney function decreased so much that he was referred for a transplant, she said. "It was at that time that we learned the prohibition made to people seeking a transplant from using their medical cannabis."

Jake Socherman was given a medical marijuana card about six years ago to relieve lower back pain, she said.

"We now realize that this pain is caused by her kidneys, which each have a size about three times that of a normal kidney," she said. "It puts pressure on his back and his other organs."

The use of cannabis helps alleviate the symptoms of his illness, including pain, nausea, and sleep disturbances, Robin Socherman said.

"The transplant center was clear that even though my husband would not be allowed to use his medical cannabis, he was free to use opiates," she said. "This seems irrational, given the current opioid-related crises in our state and country."

For a time, Jake Socherman has stopped using marijuana for medical purposes to become an acceptable transplant candidate. But as the pain, nausea, and lack of sleep became unbearable, he turned to the substance. He was then tested positive for cannabis.

"My husband was told that he was the ideal candidate for a transplant, but he was excluded from the program," she said. "The doctor made us feel ashamed and treated my husband as a drug addict from the street, telling us how disappointed he was that my husband was an addict. I could not believe it. "

In an interview, Robin Socherman said that her husband is director of a national agricultural supplies company that has been working in his field since graduation over 25 years ago. He runs a multi-million dollar business and travels a lot for work, she said.

"This is not an addict," she said.

Nosse told The Statesman Journal that he had approached the issue because he felt bad for the couple.

"Why should all these doctors interfere in their relationship and deny him the opportunity to donate a kidney and improve his life?", He said in a message text. "Medical marijuana is legal."


Information from: Statesman Journal,