Colorado Court of Appeals Puts Medical Marijuana on a “High” Shelf, Out of Reach of Probationers

On February 2, 2012, a division of the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that a person may not use medical marijuana while on probation even when such use has been approved by the sentencing judge. When someone is sentenced to probation in Colorado, the sentencing judge is required to order as a condition of probation that the person “not commit another offense during the period for which the sentence remains subject to revocation.” C.R.S. §18-1.3-204(1). While Colorado law permits the use of marijuana for medical purposes, federal law still prohibits the use and possession of marijuana for any purpose. Therefore, because the use of marijuana for medical purposes is an “offense” under federal law, the court of appeals reasoned that use of marijuana for medical purposes while on probation must be prohibited in light of the statutory mandate that a person not commit another offense while on probation.
Because of the blanket nature of the court’s holding, the case presents a potentially frightening situation for medical marijuana users who are facing criminal charges and who depend on marijuana to ease the symptoms of a chronic or debilitating medical condition. If you are a medical marijuana patient and have been charged with a crime for which probation may be a sentence, it is imperative that you seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Depending on the charges against you and the circumstances of your case, an attorney can help you explore options available to you that may limit the amount of time you must refrain from using medical marijuana.

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