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Transplant Denied: How Medical Marijuana Policy Kills Patients


patient beatingNorman Smith seemed to be making progress in his liver cancer recovery at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles, Calif. He had some of the best doctors in the world, he was on a transplant list and he had completed a successful clinical trial that had his doctors dubbing him a “miracle man.”

Then, his cancer returned and two months before he was would have received a transplant, he was de-listed for smoking marijuana prescribed by his oncologist at Cedars-Sinai. Now, if he doesn’t receive a transplant, he will die.

“It’s only my life that I’m fighting for,” says Smith. “What do I have to hide? I have nothing to hide.”

Smith’s situation represents one of the first battles being fought over the place of medical marijuana in medicine and it has left him in limbo.

Cedars-Sinai declined interview requests but referred Reason TV to Peggy Stewart, a clinical social worker with UCLA’s transplant program, which holds a similar position to Cedars-Sinai on medical marijuana.

“Marijuana is considered substance abuse,” says Stewart. “The legality of it is really not an issue.”

Stewart and Cedars-Sinai did say that transplant patients who consume marijuana put themselves at potential risk of infection from a mold found in cannabis called aspergillus.

But not everyone sees the mold as a potential threat.

“The truth is that Norman lives in Los Angeles and there are laboratories that he can take his medicine to and make sure that it doesn’t have contaminants,” says Stephanie Sherer of Americans for Safe Access , which works to break down political and legal barriers to medical cannabis.

Further, a 2009 study from the American Journal on Transplantation that looked at potential liver transplant candidates said that there wasn’t a significant difference between marijuana users from marijuana non-users.

Sherer points out that Smith isn’t alone, his problems are the reality for many patients caught in-between managing their pain and receiving a transplant.

“In our database at our office, we know of over two dozen patients that are going through this and unfortunately half of them have passed away because they did not receive these transplants,” says Smith.


Music by audionautix.com and freeplaymusic.com

About 6:48 minutes. Written and produced by Paul Detrick. Camera by Alex Manning, Zach Weissmuller and Jim Epstein.

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Original video posted on Reason.tv


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  1. Richard Rowe Bozeman Mt. on

    Norman i know what you  are going threw i to need a live transplant got liver cancer too. They told me the same thing that i can not use marijuana for pain or i will be taken off the transplant list. I think it is bullshit so lets fill him full of pain meds. that is three times worse for you than smoking marijuana how many people have died for smoking medical marjuana not one that i know but lots of my freinds have died from all the pills they got from dotors.So really how far is that not at all.Good luck to you i will pray for you too.

  2. President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act. A majority of americans want marijuana decriminalized, and yet States are still incarcerating users and sending them to prison ruining lives while feeding the Prision Industrial Complex. Delaware has passed a medical marijuana bill over one year ago, and yet there is not one clinic or dispensary open. Our very ill citizens are still forced to rely on Big pharma drugs which give them even more health problems. Time to legalize all drug as Portugal and Holland have done, and their drug problems have been greatly reduced…big pharma filling the campaign coffers our our “”represenatives” are preventing our citizens from having what they rightly and medically deserve.

  3. very sad. i mean seriously i know from my own experience, after using pain medication from my doctor i began having liver problems. upon detoxifying my body of those narcotics and using marijuana instead they symptoms let up. but thats me, no cancer, only pain.

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