HARRISBURG - Today, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania heard arguments in a lawsuit challenging Lebanon County’s policy prohibiting the use of medical marijuana by people who are under community supervision, such as probation, and who are registered patients with the state Department of Health. The lawsuit, which was filed in October, was brought by three people who were on probation at the time it was filed and who have properly registered as patients with the commonwealth. Represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the petitioners argue that the language of the state’s Medical Marijuana Act is clear that registered patients cannot be punished for using medical marijuana.

Several weeks after the lawsuit was filed, the state Supreme Court announced it would hear the case under its King’s Bench powers and stayed enforcement of the policy until arguments could be heard. According to information gathered by the ACLU of Pennsylvania, several other counties around the state have similar policies. If the court rules in favor of the petitioners, it will likely make clear that individuals under court supervision throughout the commonwealth can consume medical marijuana for health conditions.

The argument also made history, as it was the first time since the court was established in 1684 that justices heard arguments remotely.

The following can be attributed to Sara Rose, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Pennsylvania, who argued the case:

“The law is clear that a person cannot be punished for consuming medical marijuana in compliance with state law. Lebanon County and other counties with similar policies are acting beyond the law and must be reined in.

“Just as importantly, this medication is vital to the health and lives of our clients and people in similar circumstances. It allows them to lead a normal life and to feel closer to being whole, with family and friends and vocations that they care about. It is a cruel blow that counties like Lebanon have delivered to people with serious medical conditions who have found relief from their suffering from medical cannabis.”

The following can be attributed to Ashley Bennett, one of the plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit:

“Medical marijuana allows me to lead the kind of life I want. For years, I’ve been living sick every day. With medical marijuana, I don’t vomit every day. I put weight back on. I have an appetite. I can relax and get up every day and work again. I can do things every day with my family and with my kids. 

“Before being on probation, I could get up and go about my day without problems. When probation restricted our medical marijuana use, I was so sick. I was wasting away to nothing. I couldn’t get out of bed. I lost 30 pounds and four pants sizes. I couldn’t get up and do things with my kids. Now I can.”

The following can be attributed to Melissa Gass, who is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit and who has epilepsy:

“I was on medical marijuana for ten months while on probation, but then they banned it. After that, I started having multiple seizures daily. In one episode, I ended up hospitalized in the intensive care unit because I had back-to-back seizures and stopped breathing. With medical marijuana, my seizures stop in a matter of seconds. I can be a mom and a grandma.  

“I joined this lawsuit because I had to fight for my life. I knew I had to do what was right for myself, my family, and others.”
More information about the case, Gass et al. v. 52nd Judicial District, is available at aclupa.org/Gass.