Marijuana

Medical marijuana card not a license to smoke on probation, court rules

The Colorado Court of Appeals has weighed in on the question of whether a medical marijuana patient can smoke while completing a probationary sentence that specifically nixes drug use. The judges' answer in a decision on view below? A resounding "no" justified in part by references to the case of Jason Beinor, a medical marijuana patient who was fired from his job as a street sweeper after failing a random drug test. The man at the center of the latest controversy is Leonard Charles Watkins. At the time of a 2010 package by 9News, Watkins was reportedly on probation in Arapahoe County following a 2005 conviction involving sexual assault on a child. Nonetheless, a judge had sanctioned his use of MMJ, much to the chagrin of 18th Judicial District DA Carol Chambers. In an e-mail statement to 9News, Chambers wrote, "Does anyone think it's a good idea to allow a convicted sex offender to get high? People on probation have admitted to violating the law. There are different public safety concerns and different laws that apply to them than apply to the rest of the community."

Chambers's office subsequently appealed the decision allowing cannabis medication. Hence, the current case, in which Watkins argued that Amendment 20, which legalized medical marijuana in Colorado, "is paramount and necessarily prevails" over probation rules that forbid him from using or possessing "any narcotic, dangerous or abusable substance without a prescription."

To that, the judges wrote, "We are not persuaded." Here's their elaboration on that point:

The Amendment provides that it shall be an exception from the state's criminal laws for any patient in lawful possession of a "registry identification card" to use marijuana for medical purposes.... Under the Amendment, however, a physician does not prescribe marijuana, but may only provide "written documentation" stating that the patient has a debilitating medical condition and might benefit from the medical use of marijuana... Therefore, defendant's physician's certification does not constitute a "written lawful prescription" as required by the terms of his probation.

Just as important is this passage:

As a division of this court recognized in Beinor, the Amendment created a defense to criminal prosecution and is not a "grant to medical marijuana users of an unlimited constitutional right to use the drug in any place or any manner."

Page down to read more about the case, including the complete ruling.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

Latest Stories