With the legalization of medical or recreational marijuana, there often comes a number of questions left unanswered. One of those questions is whether people who are on probation should be allowed to medicate with medical marijuana or not. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled against a judge that attempted to require a probationer’s doctor to testify to their need to use medical marijuana. The court stated that unless the prosecution could prove that it would run counter to their sentencing, a medical marijuana card was more than enough evidence to allow an individual to continue to medicate.
This all started with an El Paso County court decision, which was initially upheld by a district court before the case was appealed to the Supreme Court. Alysha Walton pled guilty to a DUI in an El Paso court in 2017, and one of the conditions of her probation was to remain clean, including abstaining from medical marijuana – for which she was already a registered patient. Presenting her state-issued medical marijuana ID and supporting documents wasn’t enough for the El Paso court system, however, as Judge Karla Hansen wanted to hear it straight from her doctor.
“Were we to wait for another case like this one to find its way to us with a defendant still serving her sentence, we might wait in vain,” Justice William W. Hood III wrote in the court’s decision. “DUI sentences are often shorter than the time necessary for appeal and certiorari review. Meanwhile, this important issue regarding a defendant’s legislative permission to use medical marijuana while on probation will persist in El Paso County and perhaps elsewhere throughout the State of Colorado.”
The Supreme Court determined that this was the wrong decision to uphold. In 2015, a law was passed to allow people on probation to use medical marijuana. According to the Supreme Court, that law put the burden of proof on the prosecution to provide solid evidence that using medical marijuana would go against the point of sentencing. In the case of Alysha Walton, that certainly wasn’t the case. Unfortunately, Walton already completed her probation while abstaining from medical marijuana.
Regardless, the court decided to take up the issue anyway, to ensure that future medical marijuana patients aren’t forced to go without medication during their probation period. Next time a court attempts to keep a patient from using the medicine they have legal access to, they will need to keep this ruling in mind and ensure there is solid reasoning to prevent the individual from medicating with cannabis. Otherwise, patients in Colorado are safe to assume they are allowed to use medical marijuana during probation without consequence.