Pennsylvania is in the middle of what could be an important legal case dealing with medical marijuana. Specifically, there is a challenge to local policies that have attempted to bar parolees from accessing medical marijuana.
Some counties within the state are trying to keep such prohibitions in place. However, there is growing pressure to push back against these restrictions. And now, those insisting that parolees have a right to medical marijuana could be gaining traction. That’s because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has decided to hear the case.
Obviously, this has big implications for Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program. But more broadly, it also carries significant implications for the rights of prisoners, those who have been formerly incarcerated, and those on parole.
Pushing Back Against Medical Marijuana Prohibitions
The heart of the debate is a lawsuit coming out of Lebanon County. As reported by local news source Fox 43, the suit is being filed against the County by the ACLU and plaintiffs Melissa Gass, Ashley Bennett, and Andrew Koch.
The lawsuit comes as a response to Lebanon County’s policy barring Gass and others from participating in the state’s medical marijuana program, simply because they are on parole.
Lebanon County, along with a number of other counties in Pennsylvania, have policies in place that prohibit parolees from accessing medical marijuana, even though it is legal in the state.
Not surprisingly, the lawsuit challenges the legality of this prohibition.
Initially, the 52nd Judicial District of Lebanon County defended the policy. Immediately, the ACLU pushed back.
“The plain language in the medical marijuana law shows that the legislature intended to protect all patients, including those on probation,” Pennsylvania ACLU legal director Witold Walczak said. “Judges may not agree with the Medical Marijuana Act, or may not support people using marijuana for any reason, but they must follow the law.”
PA Supreme Court Is Hearing the Case
Since Lebanon County’s initial response, the case has now moved on. Specifically, the state Supreme Court has decided to hear the case.
Interestingly, the Supreme Court explained that it normally would not hear cases like this. But, given the broad implications of this case, the court chose to allow it.
“The Court finds that this case implicates substantial legal questions concerning matters of public importance, particularly in light of the allegation that other judicial districts have adopted or are considering adopting similar limitations on the use of medical marijuana,” the Court explained in a filing.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has asked for all briefs to be submitted by December 9.
In the meantime, the Court also issued a stay on county policies that bar parolees from accessing medical marijuana.
“Any enforcement or implementation of the Policy is STAYED pending further order of this Court,” the court filing stated.
Recently, the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole issued a statement that seems to provide even more support for parolees’ rights. In it, the Board sent a memo to all state parole supervision staff.
That memo reads: “If the parolee has a prescription for medical marijuana, we would treat it exactly as we would treat any other prescription.”
That memo together with the Supreme Court’s stay indicates that parolees should be able to get medical marijuana in all parts of Pennsylvania. Final decision are pending the Supreme Court case.