Patient Waiting For Transplant Kicked Off List For Using Medical Marijuana


By Steve Birr

A kidney patient is fighting for a new law to protect medical marijuana users after a hospital removed him from the transplant list because he used pot.

Garry Godfrey was put on the transplant list at Maine Medical Center for a new kidney in 2003 due to a hereditary condition called Alport syndrome, which can cause kidney failure early in life. Maine Medical Center changed their policy in 2010, narrowing the qualifications for eligible transplant patients to exclude those using medical marijuana, and he was removed from the list after using the drug, reports WGME.

Alport syndrome can cause excruciating pain, nausea and anxiety, which Godfrey failed to find remedies for with traditional medication. Now he’s lending his voice to a bill moving through the state legislature which would protect medical marijuana patients from being removed from transplant lists.

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

Officials for the Maine Medical Center are not commenting on Godfrey’s specific case, but said the policy serves to protect transplant patients from potentially fatal infections. They note that a patient can discontinue their marijuana use and requalify with the hospital for a transplant.

“Our Drug Use policy currently prohibits transplant candidates from using marijuana … due to the risk of an invasive fungal infection known as Aspergillosis,” Maine Medical Center said in a statement, according to WGME.

Patients like Godfrey, who are reliant on the state’s medical marijuana program from daily pain relief, say the policy is leaving people with debilitating conditions no options. The bill, introduced March 27, is currently being considered by state lawmakers in committee.

Doctors warn that while medical marijuana can aid a variety of conditions, bacteria and fungi potentially present on the plant can pose risks. While a healthy adult is not likely to be affected by these kinds of pathogens, it can present problems for medical patients with diminished immune systems.

Medical marijuana is legal in 28 states and the drug is legal for recreational use in Washington, D.C. Voters in Maine, Nevada, California and Massachusetts all approved measures to legalize marijuana for recreational use on Election Day 2016.

Nearly 1 in 5 Americans now have access to legal pot.

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