Colorado Court of Appeals Says Coloradans On Probation Are Not Eligible For Medical Marijuana Prescriptions
Last week, in their opinion on People vs Watkins, the Colorado Court of Appeals declared that individuals on probation are not eligible for Colorado’s medical marijuana program. The issue at hand, they said, was the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. constitution.
¶39 We therefore conclude that section 18-1.3-204(1), requiring that all probation sentences explicitly include a condition that probationers not commit offenses during the probation period, includes federal offenses and is not limited by Colorado Constitution, article XVIII, section 14.
The decision, unsurprisingly, has marijuana advocates up in arms. Denver attorney Rob Corry, a staunch advocate for medical marijuana and patients’ rights, was quick in condemning the court’s ruling.
from The Colorado Independent:
“If the Legislature had wanted people on probation to be prohibited from using medical marijuana, they would have addressed that,” Corry said. “The Legislature determined which people can and can’t use medical marijuana and they did not prohibit people on probation from using medical marijuana. It is by design that we want people on probation to have some measure of freedom and health,” Corry said, adding that for a lot of people, medical marijuana is an alternative to much more harmful–but legal–narcotics.
Corry said similar cases in Montana and California have been decided in favor of medical marijuana users. While he was not of counsel to the defendant in this case, he says he is working with a group, Sensible Colorado, to appeal for a rehearing of the case.
Corry is far from being the lone voice of discontent in the wake of the ruling. Public policy organizations around the state and country were quick to condemn the court’s decision.
Karen O’ Keefe, state policy director for the Marijuana Policy Project, was quick to express her disappointment saying, and pointed out that there is no precedent for the courts ruling on what is/isn’t acceptable medication for patients. Legalize 2012, a group pushing for full legalization in Colorado, also released an email condemning the court’s ruling.
This ruling is a huge blow to medical marijuana patients statewide, many of whom will be forced off of their safe, effective and natural cannabis medicine and forced to use dangerous and expensive pharmaceutical alternatives. For many patients, cannabis is the only medicine that works for them, especially for patients who are using cannabis as a non-toxic alternative therapy to treat their cancer.
Previously, probation departments across Colorado had wide discretion into whether or not a patient on probation would be allowed to use their medicinal cannabis. With the Court of Appeals ruling, the ability of probation officers to address individual patient situations on a case-by-case basis has been eliminated and replaced with a statewide “Zero Tolerance” policy for medical cannabis use and probation.
As of press time, it seemed that the only person in the state who was not surprised by the court’s decision was Colorado Attorney General John Suthers. In a statement, via spokesperson Mike Saccone, the Attorney General made clear that he believes “probation is a privilege, not a right”, that it comes with restrictions, and that the ruling should not have come as a shock to anyone.
As for the court of public opinion, Karen O’Keefe was quick to highlight that many Americans just aren’t as concerned with marijuana, or its consumers, as they used to be.
“Polling shows that 60 to 80 percent of Americans think medical marijuana should be legal. It is only a matter of time until federal policy catches up with the people.”
(image courtesy of the Michigan Messenger)
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