Is Medical Marijuana a Probation Violation in PA?
Pennsylvania may have legalized it, but some counties in the Commonwealth still consider medical marijuana a probation violation. If you’re a medical marijuana patient who lives in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, using your medication will probably not count as a probation or parole violation. But if you live in Lebanon or a dozen or so other counties in PA, the local court may deem any marijuana use to be a probation violation–even if you need it to treat a serious condition.
At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC we are committed to defending your rights at every stage of the criminal justice system, including the post-conviction phase. The authorities will often try to use your status as an offender against you. But by acting fast and hiring a lawyer who can assert your rights, you give yourself the best chances of getting a positive result.
The ACLU Is Suing PA Counties That Treat Medical Marijuana as a Violation
Lebanon County has a new policy that puts probationers and parolees at risk of jail if they don’t stop all medical marijuana use. But the ACLU of Pennsylvania is challenging this in court.
The ACLU argues that the prohibition on the use of medical marijuana during conditional release runs contrary to Pennsylvania’s 2016 law that protects medical marijuana patients from any criminal sanctions for using their medicine.
The law prohibits prisoners from using cannabis, but does not specifically include parolees and probationers. So a strict reading does not authorize counties to put these restrictions in place. The ACLU lawsuit also points out that Lebanon parole officers allow offenders under their supervision to use prescription opioids, despite the fact that these substances are a far greater public health concern than marijuana.
Lebanon County Insists on Criminalizing Medical Marijuana
But Lebanon County is not giving up on its anti-marijuana policy without a fight. The County argues that anyone on parole or probation must obey both state and federal law. Since medical marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, people on supervised release shouldn’t be taking it. The County adds that it also drug tests its own parole officers to ensure that they are held to the same standards as the people they supervise.
In response to the ACLU suit, Judge John C. Tylwalk stated that many people on marijuana were reluctant to enter drug treatment, and that drug treatment is an essential aspect of the supervision program. He also added that no one will go back to jail for taking medical marijuana without first getting a hearing. Unfortunately, many people attend this hearing without legal representation, despite the fact that having an experienced defense lawyer can make a big difference.
A Lawyer Can Help You Avoid Parole and Probation Violations
In response to similar lawsuits, the Supreme Courts of Arizona and Oregon recently ruled that medical marijuana patients cannot be arrested or jailed–even if they are on parole or probation.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court very well may follow their lead. Until then, you should talk to a Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer to ensure that you are not violating your conditional release terms by using medical marijuana.
For a free consultation about a probation violation or marijuana charges, call Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC at (412) 281-2146 for a free and confidential consultation.