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January 29, 2020

HARRISBURG - The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania today filed its latest brief in a case challenging a Lebanon County court’s policy that bans people on probation or under other court supervision from using medical marijuana to treat their serious medical conditions. In today’s filing, the ACLU asked the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to rule that the policy contradicts the commonwealth’s Medical Marijuana Act and to permanently end its enforcement.

“State law is clear that people cannot be sanctioned because they are registered medical marijuana patients,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “And yet, the Lebanon County court has chosen to ignore the plain language of the law. Our clients and people like them need their medicine, and medical marijuana provides the relief they need to function normally in their daily lives.”

In October, the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed the lawsuit on behalf of three people who were on probation at the time and who are registered medical marijuana patients with the state Department of Health. Several weeks after the ACLU filed the lawsuit, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania temporarily halted the county’s enforcement of the policy, until it reaches a final decision in the case.

Today’s filing by the ACLU of Pennsylvania urges the state’s highest court to permanently strike down the county’s directive. It is accompanied by an additional friend-of-the-court brief by the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, the Association of Cannabis Specialists, the Drug Policy Alliance, and Americans for Safe Access Foundation, represented by attorneys Tom Wilkinson and Abby Sacunas of the law firm Cozen O’Connor.

A ruling in the plaintiffs’ favor would be binding on the courts in Lebanon County and would impact medical marijuana patients under court supervision throughout the state. Since filing the lawsuit last fall, the ACLU of Pennsylvania has learned that multiple counties in Pennsylvania have similar policies.

“The Supreme Court can clarify this issue for counties all over the state and guarantee that people on probation are not punished simply for lawfully using medical marijuana to treat their disabilities,” said Andrew Christy, an attorney for the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “Until this issue is resolved, patients throughout the commonwealth are left in limbo, putting their health at risk and their lives on hold.”

“Our hope is that the court will recognize that Lebanon County is wrongly punishing registered patients and that other counties with similar policies will come into accordance with the law following the court’s decision.”

Arguments in the case have not yet been scheduled, but a decision is expected later this year.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Melissa Gass, Ashley Bennett, and Andrew Koch, are represented by Witold Walczak, Sara Rose, Andrew Christy, and Ali Szemanski of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. Today’s filings and other resources are available at aclupa.org/Lebanon.

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