One rule for all: Medical marijuana should be consistent across Pennsylvania

Twitter icon

A person on probation for a past offense who legally obtains a medical marijuana card shouldn’t be held to varying standards for using the card depending on what county he or she resides in. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court should not allow individual counties to establish their own rules regarding medical marijuana use by probationers.

An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union asked the state Supreme Court to declare illegal a policy enacted in Lebanon County that prohibits those on probation from using marijuana, even though they hold a medical card. The ACLU filed a King’s Bench request to quickly take up the case, and arguments were made May 19 via videoconference.

The case is significant, according to the ACLU complaint, because other counties are considering similar policies, including Indiana, Jefferson, Lycoming, Elk, Forest, Potter and Northampton. Court systems in Allegheny, Philadelphia and Centre counties allow people on supervised release to use medical marijuana, the complaint said.

Unless overturned by the state Supreme Court, the possibility exists that individual county court systems will create their own rules for whether someone on probation can use a medical marijuana card. A probationer in Allegheny County could use medical marijuana without repercussions, while someone in Lebanon County on probation for a similar offense could end up going back to jail for legally using medical marijuana.

This is not what the Legislature intended when it approved the Medical Marijuana Act in 2016. It clearly spells out a host of medical conditions that qualify for medical marijuana use, and mandates that those applying for a card must be under the ongoing care of a certified physician.

Most important, the act includes the provision that those who are issued a medical marijuana card are protected from arrest or prosecution for using it.

The ACLU represents three petitioners in the case, all of whom use medical marijuana for serious medical conditions. One of them, a 42-year-old woman on probation from a 2016 simple assault incident in which she struck her husband, has recurring grand mal seizures stemming from a car crash when she was 10. Ironically, the woman said it was her probation officer who suggested she apply for a medical marijuana card to help control the seizures.

Once she obtained the card and began using marijuana, her seizures reduced from several a day to a few each month. When she stopped using it because of the Lebanon County policy, she has been repeatedly hospitalized because of the seizures.

An attorney for the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts who represented Lebanon County argued that having a medical marijuana card does not show “medical necessity” and that having a card is “not the equivalent of lawful use.” He argued that county courts should have discretion in how they oversee those on probation, including whether to allow medical marijuana use.

That argument not only creates conflicting rules depending on the county, but also gives discretionary power to probation judges that is not included in the legislation legalizing medical marijuana.

Those who obtain a medical marijuana card through a state-approved and certified physician should be allowed to use the drug without fear of legal action, regardless of whether they are on probation. The state Supreme Court must not allow individual counties to create their own terms for use.

e-mail icon Facebook icon Twitter icon LinkedIn icon Reddit icon
Rate this article: 
Article category: 
Regional Marijuana News: