Harrisburg, PA: Justices for the Supreme Court of the state of Pennsylvania have struck down a countywide policy that barred those on probation from accessing medical cannabis.
The ruling determined that the local (Lebanon County) ban was in conflict with the state’s medical marijuana access law, which states that Pennsylvanians registered with the program shall not be punished for their use cannabis.
Commenting on the ruling, NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “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.”
Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Thomas G. Saylor opined: “The MMA [Medical Marijuana Act] contains an immunity provision protecting patients from government sanctions. Per the statute, no such individual “shall be subject to arrest, prosecution or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, … solely for lawful use of medical marijuana … or for any other action taken in accordance with this act.” … Although ensuring strict adherence to the MMA by those possessing a valid medical marijuana card may be difficult, the alternative selected by the District of diluting the immunity afforded to probationer patients by the Act is simply not a viable option.”
Justices further rejected the argument that those on probation may be prohibited from accessing medical cannabis because the substance is categorized as a Schedule I controlled substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act, finding: “The federal Controlled Substances Act does not (and could not) require states to enforce it. … In enacting the MMA, the Pennsylvania Legislature proceeded pursuant to its independent power to define state criminal law and promote the health and welfare of the citizenry. While the circumstances are certainly uneasy — since possession and use of medical marijuana remains a federal crime — we find that the District cannot require state level adherence to the federal prohibition, where the General Assembly has specifically undertaken to legalize the use of medical marijuana for enumerated therapeutic purposes.”
The case is Gass et al, v 52nd Judicial District, Lebanon County.
For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director.