HARRISBURG - The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that Lebanon County’s policy banning the use of medical marijuana by people who are on probation and who are registered medical marijuana patients violates state law. The policy was challenged by three county residents who were on probation and who used medical marijuana for debilitating medical conditions, including epilepsy, nausea, and chronic pain.
In a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the court ruled that Lebanon County’s policy is “contrary to the immunity accorded by Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act.”
“This is a major victory for people who rely on medical marijuana to treat their medical conditions,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “We are grateful that the justices understood the legislature’s clear intent that people who lawfully use this treatment should not be punished for it.”
Melissa Gass, Ashley Bennett, and Andrew Koch filed the lawsuit after they were forced to stop using medical marijuana because they were serving probation terms. Gass uses the treatment for severe epilepsy, which, without medical marijuana, causes her to suffer multiple seizures each day. Bennett registered as a patient with the state Department of Health to treat chronic nausea and post traumatic stress disorder. And Koch found that medical marijuana effectively treated chronic pain he suffers as a result of a motor vehicle accident.
“We fought so hard for this win,” Gass said. “Medical marijuana allows me to be a mom and a grandma. I had to fight for my life and for the lives of others who are helped by medical cannabis. I am incredibly grateful for this outcome.”
“For years, I’ve been living sick every day, and medical marijuana allows me to lead the kind of life I want,” Bennett said. “When probation banned medical marijuana, I was sick, couldn’t get out of bed, and lost 30 pounds. This ruling is exactly what we all hoped for.”
Lebanon County’s policy has been on hold since the state Supreme Court issued a temporary halt to its enforcement in October, in response to the ACLU’s lawsuit. Today’s ruling permanently overturns the policy and applies to every county in the state.
“Although most county courts have allowed registered patients to use medical marijuana while on probation, there are still some that ban medical marijuana for people on community supervision,” said Sara Rose, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “Any attempt to enforce those policies will be challenged.”
More information about this case, including a copy of today’s ruling, is available at aclupa.org/Gass.