Court: Arizona probationers can't be barred from medical pot

AP News
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Posted: Apr 07, 2015 7:12 PM

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizonans with medical marijuana cards cannot be barred from using the drug while on probation, the state Supreme Court concluded Tuesday in a ruling that will have ripple effects across the state.

The decision by Arizona's highest court comes as courts around the country are struggling with rules for medical marijuana cardholders who are serving probation and parole.

A bill being considered by the Colorado Legislature would allow parolees to smoke medical marijuana in most cases. The Colorado Court of Appeals earlier ruled a man on parole could not use medical pot.

California law specifies that anyone on parole can ask the courts to be allowed to smoke medical marijuana after being released from jail or prison. Other states have seen a mish-mash of responses in the courts on whether people can smoke pot while on probation and parole.

In Arizona, the court said immunity granted by a 2010 voter-approved medical marijuana law extends to people on probation — and prohibiting them from using medical pot is illegal.

"This (immunity) policy would be severely compromised if the state and a defendant could bargain away the defendant's ability to lawfully use medical marijuana," the Supreme Court wrote

The rulings were made in cases involving marijuana card holders in Cochise and Yavapai counties in which people who entered plea deals protested the ban on their legal pot use.

In Cochise County, authorities prohibited Keenan Reed-Kaliher from using medical marijuana after he was sentenced to more than one year in prison for his guilty pleas on charges of pot possession for sale and attempted possession of a narcotic for sale.

Reed-Kaliher, who had a marijuana card for pain from a hip injury, protested the probation condition, arguing the 2010 law protects him from prosecution. Authorities argued that banning medical marijuana use for people on probation was reasonable and noted that those on probation can be barred from legal activity, such as drinking alcohol.

The Supreme Court said a judge can condition probation on a person's agreement to refrain from legal conduct, but a court can't impose a condition of probation that violates state law.

The second case considered by the Supreme Court centers on Jennifer Ferrell, a marijuana card holder who had pleaded guilty to drunken driving in Yavapai County. She protested a condition of her probation that barred medical marijuana use.

Ferrell argued the probation condition conflicted with the marijuana law, while prosecutors contended Ferrell waived any rights she had under the pot law by agreeing to the condition.