Colorado Court Says No Medical Pot for People on Probation

 The Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled that people on probation do not have the right to use marijuana medically.

The decision is a reaction to the controversy surrounding Leonard Charles Watkins, who was reportedlyon probation following a 2005 conviction for sexually assaulting on a child. A judge gave Watkins permission to use medical marijuana, but the 18th Judicial District Attorney Carol Chambers challenged the ruling. 

In the second decision, judges ruled against Watkins' argument that Colorado's Amendment 20, "is paramount and necessarily prevails" over conditions of probation  that forbid "any narcotic, dangerous or abusable substance without a prescription."

The court said:

The Amendment provides that it shall be an exception from the state's criminal laws for any patient in lawful possession of a "registry identification card" to use marijuana for medical purposes.... Under the Amendment, however, a physician does not prescribe marijuana, but may only provide "written documentation" stating that the patient has a debilitating medical condition and might benefit from the medical use of marijuana... Therefore, defendant's physician's certification does not constitute a "written lawful prescription" as required by the terms of his probation.

Judges also referenced the case of Jason Beinor, a medical marijuana patient who lost his street sweeping job after failing a random drug test. The Colorado Court of Appeals decided Beinor did not deserve unemployment benefits because he tested positive for a 'controlled substance,' which the Colorado Constitution says does not provide the grounds to collect unemployment. 


In the Watkins decision, the Court said the following about Beinor:


As a division of this court recognized in Beinor, the Amendment created a defense to criminal prosecution and is not a "grant to medical marijuana users of an unlimited constitutional right to use the drug in any place or any manner."


The Beinor ruling has often been cited in medical marijuana cases, prompting medical pot activist Cathleen Chippi to convince Beinor to participate in an appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court last fall.

According to Denver's Westword Blog:

In the meantime, the folks at Legalize 2012, who are pushing what they call the Cannabis Re-legalization Act, describe the most recent ruling in a release as "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.

"Previously, probation departments across Colorado had wide discretion into whether or not a patient on probation would be allowed to use their medicinal cannabis," the statement continues. "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."

Read more here.

AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne

Posted at February 7, 2012, 9:50am

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