Probation is a much more preferable alternative to incarceration for minor crimes. It is much less expensive for the state. That money can then be spent making life better for citizens. Probation is better in every way for the offender. They can work and live at home, and not have their life disrupted being behind bars. They are still paying their debt to society, as well. However, what if one of the rules of your probation was that you had to suffer from a disorder like chronic pain or epilepsy? What if the state had the power to allow you to stay out of jail but you can’t take your medication, and if you do, you’ll go to jail anyway?
You can imagine the commotion if the criminal justice system instructed AIDS patients to stop taking their antiretroviral medication, or refuse cancer patients their radiation. Yet the state can impose such restrictions if the medication is medicinal cannabis. Though perhaps not for long. Michigan has had medical marijuana since 2008. Nonetheless, it’s commonplace for judges to require probationers to refrain from using drugs while on probation. Doing so violates Michigan’s 2008 Medical Marijuana Act, according to attorney David Rudoi, who is arguing so in the state Court of Appeals. As MLive reports, the law says “anyone who has been issued and possesses a registry identification card” can have medical marijuana. It doesn’t make any exceptions for individuals on probation.
63 year old Dennis Magyari is Rudoi’s client. He was convicted of his third DUI offense in 2014. Magyari was sentenced to sixty days in jail and three years of probation, during which time he would be barred from using marijuana, which he’d been using to find relief from multiple conditions, the newspaper reported. Rudoi argues, if he can’t use marijuana he is likely to be forced into prescription opiates, instead. Magyari has since been sentenced to prison for violating his probation. Consequently, he wouldn’t be able to use medical marijuana in jail. However, his case is still significant. If Rudoi wins, any resulting Court of Appeals ruling could prevent other judges from threatening probationers from using marijuana.
Rudoi says he has convinced judges to lift such restrictions in about thirty other cases. However, having a ruling from an upper court would mean he and his clients would no longer be subject to a judge’s views on whether cannabis is a legitimate medicine and therefore cannot be part of a probationer’s terms. It would also follow Arizona, where the state Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s finding that a registered medical cannabis patient can not be restricted from using marijuana while on probation.
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