Judges Snuffing Out Probationers’ Medical Marijuana

ADRIAN, Mich. —

Medical marijuana users who run afoul of the law are discovering probation is an antidote to their
certification cards.

An Adrian man was warned against applying for a medical marijuana card when he was placed on probation Thursday for a cocaine offense. Growing and using marijuana is still against federal law, said Lenawee County Circuit Judge Timothy P. Pickard. And the state medical use program does not seem to be restricting certification to the seriously ill.

“I don’t buy it,” Pickard said during the sentencing. “It seems to be an excuse for everybody to light up and smoke dope.”

Pickard, Lenawee County’s chief judge, said Friday the courts have no policy ruling out all use of medical marijuana for people on probation. But he has to be convinced there is a legitimate need, he said.

Regulations written by the state after a medical marijuana ballot proposal was passed by voters in 2008 do not require a prescription. Citizens can apply for certification cards with only a signed statement from a physician saying it may benefit their medical condition.

Probation terms can restrict otherwise legal behavior, Pickard said, such as drinking alcohol or associating with people having felony records. And it would be difficult to excuse violating federal law by growing and using marijuana while on probation.

Pickard said he will still consider approving medical marijuana use for probationers whose convictions are not drug-related and who can show evidence of a serious medical condition that can be treated with marijuana.

If those conditions are met, “I’m fine with it,” Pickard said. “That doesn’t seem to be the case. I haven’t seen that yet.”

A similar approach is being followed in district court, where offenders frequently are required to surrender medical marijuana cards as a condition of probation.

Chief probation officer Tony Gonzalez said district court has no written probation policy on medical marijuana. Judges review it on a case-by-case basis, he said.

“We’re taking a hard stance on it,” Gonzalez said. “If they’re just going out shopping for it, we tell them no.”

The Michigan Depart­ment of Corrections also has no written policy on how medical marijuana should be addressed for offenders placed on probation, said department spokesman Russ Marlan.

“We certainly would never make a recommendation that somebody do that,” Marlan said. But it is left to local judges to decide if medical marijuana is prohibited as a probation term.

There is a policy banning medical marijuana for offenders released from prison on parole, Marlan said. It is standard condition that parolees cannot use controlled substances or possess drug paraphernalia.

Department staff are also prohibited by policy from applying for medical marijuana cards and using medical marijuana, he said.

“There’s alternative forms of medical treatment,” he said.

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