Pennsylvania Supreme Court Strikes Down County Ban On Medical Marijuana

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a Lebanon County policy that banned the use of medical marijuana by those on probation or parole, even if they have a state-issued identification card authorizing them to do so. The unanimous decision was handed down by the court on Thursday morning and applies to all of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.

“This decision provides further validation that cannabis is medicine and that those Pennsylvanians who rely on it should not be treated any differently or be denied any rights under the law,” Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said after the decision was handed down.

The case stems from a Lebanon County policy issued in 2019 by Judge John Tylwalk that prohibited those being supervised by the county’s probation department from using medical marijuana, even with a doctor’s recommendation and an identification card from the state. Tylwalk cited the federal prohibition on cannabis as rationale for the policy, writing that the probation department “should not knowingly allow violations of law to occur.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, representing three medical marijuana patients affected by the ban, sued to have it overturned. The plaintiffs use medical marijuana for a variety of conditions, including epilepsy, nausea, and chronic pain. The ACLU lawyers argued that the 2016 law establishing Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program gave registered patients “sweeping immunity” from prosecution and other penalties.

The justices agreed with the plaintiffs, writing in their opinion that in enacting the state’s medical marijuana statute, “the Pennsylvania Legislature proceeded pursuant to its independent power to define state criminal law and promote the health and welfare of the citizenry.”

‘Major Victory’ For Medical Marijuana Patients

After Thursday’s ruling, ACLU of Pennsylvania executive director Reggie Shuford praised the decision handed down by the state’s Supreme Court.

“This is a major victory for people who rely on medical marijuana to treat their medical conditions,” Shuford said. “We are grateful that the justices understood the legislature’s clear intent that people who lawfully use this treatment should not be punished for it.”

One of the plaintiffs in the case, Melissa Gass, who has multiple seizures each day without her medicine, said after the ruling that “medical marijuana allows me to be a mom and a grandma.”

“I had to fight for my life and for the lives of others who are helped by medical cannabis. I am incredibly grateful for this outcome,” she said in a statement released by the ACLU.Thursday’s Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision is already reverberating through the state. In Jefferson County, which had a similar policy banning the use of medical marijuana by those on probation and parole, Judge John Foradora has reviewed the justices’ opinion and “will be doing an order to comply with their findings,” Court Administrator Chad Weaver said in an email.

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