Should We Deny Ill People on Probation Access to Medicine?

Posted by Ezekiel Edwards, Criminal Law Reform Project & Emma Andersson, Criminal Law Reform Project
In 2000, Colorado voters approved an amendment  to their state constitution that allows patients suffering from conditions like cancer, glaucoma and HIV/AIDS to use medical marijuana when a doctor has advised them to do so. The amendment to the Colorado constitution provides that these patients “may engage in the medical use of marijuana” and that they will have an affirmative defense against state criminal charges relating to their use of medical marijuana.
Nonetheless, the Colorado Court of Appeals held recently that patients with debilitating medical conditions cannot use the medicine they need if they are on probation. The rule applies no matter how sick a patient is or what type of offense led to the sentence of probation. For example, the decision will prevent a cancer patient from using marijuana as medicine if she is on probation for forging a check. Punishing probationers by uniformly denying them access tothe medicine they need is irrational as a matter of policy and undermines the goal of Colorado’s medical marijuana law to provide relief for Coloradans with debilitating health problems.
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