On Probation? Arizona Lawmaker Wants To Take Away Your Medical Cannabis

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Photo Credit: Nicholas Belton

Arizona residents on probation or parole would no longer be able to consume cannabis to relieve their pain or other ailments under a newly proposed law.

Arizona Republican Vince Leach, R-Saddlebrooke, introduced several anti-medical-marijuana bills last year that went nowhere, including one that would have stopped the state from offering registration discounts to food-stamp recipients. This time, he’s targeting people on probation.

As it stands now, the 2010 Arizona Medical Marijuana Act has won out in court on that question. The state can’t take away someone’s voter-approved right to use medicinal cannabis as punishment or a condition of staying out of jail.

Leach seeks to change that situation. Last week, he introduced HB 2068, which says that authorities may prohibit a registered patient “from possessing or using medical marijuana … as a condition of the person’s probation, community supervision or parole.”

The former Wisconsin mineral-products salesman who retired to Arizona in 2009 didn’t respond to a request for comment about his bill on Friday.

If it becomes law, the measure would reverse the precedent set by a pair of rulings in April 2015 by the Arizona Supreme Court.

“Thus, AMMA does not deny even those convicted of violent crimes or drug offenses (so long as they are not incarcerated) access to medical marijuana if it could alleviate severe or chronic pain or debilitating medical conditions,” the justices wrote in the primary of the two decisions, Reed-Kaliher v. Hoggatt (State). “We therefore conclude that the immunity provision of AMMA does not exclude probationers.”

Tom Dean, one of the attorneys who helped win the Reed-Kaliher case, said he didn’t think the bill had a chance. Because the AMMA is voter-protected, legislators need a three-fourths majority to alter it, and even then the change must further the law’s purpose.

The 2015 rulings help show the AMMA gives an “unrestricted right” for people who met the criteria as a cannabis patient, Dean said. That would help any later legal challenge, in the unlikely event the bill moves forward, he added.

“I don’t think this guy’s thinking it through,” he said of Leach.

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