Should We Deny Ill People on Probation Access to Medicine?

In 2000, Colorado voters approved an amendment to their state constitution that allows patients suffering from conditions like cancer, glaucoma and HIV/AIDS to use medical marijuana when a doctor has advised them to do so. The amendment to the Colorado constitution provides that these patients "may engage in the medical use of marijuana" and that they will have an affirmative defense against state criminal charges relating to their use of medical marijuana.

Nonetheless, the Colorado Court of Appeals held recently that patients with debilitating medical conditions cannot use the medicine they need if they are on probation. The rule applies no matter how sick a patient is or what type of offense led to the sentence of probation. For example, the decision will prevent a cancer patient from using marijuana as medicine if she is on probation for forging a check. Punishing probationers by uniformly denying them access to the medicine they need is irrational as a matter of policy and undermines the goal of Colorado's medical marijuana law to provide relief for Coloradans with debilitating health problems.

Colorado law permits trial courts to sentence certain people to probation when it serves the "ends of justice and the best interest of the public, as well as the defendant." How does denying sick people medicine serve the ends of justice, let alone the people with serious ailments who also happen to be on probation? It doesn't. Prohibiting medicine in the form of marijuana — which for some patients is unmatched in the relief it provides from pain, nausea and other symptoms — is no more humane or rational than barring probationers from antiretroviral treatment for HIV or aspirin therapy for heart disease.

The court's ruling is wrong legally and morally, not to mention overbroad and inconsistent with the plain language of the Colorado probation statute. Moreover, the ruling jeopardizes seriously ill patients' access to medicine recommended by their doctors and used in compliance with Colorado law. Punishing sick people by denying them medicine that eases the nausea from chemotherapy or lowers intraocular pressure caused by glaucoma serves neither a punitive nor a rehabilitative purpose.

Because the Court of Appeals' ruling is so flawed, yesterday the ACLU asked the Colorado Supreme Court to review the decision. No one should be denied access to medicine that their doctor has advised them to use and that state law permits — whether marijuana or Advil. We hope the Colorado Supreme Court will hear the case, and restore trial courts' ability to allow probationer-patients in Colorado to access vital medicine.

Learn more about medical marijuana: Sign up for breaking news alerts, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

Add a comment (4)
Read the Terms of Use


Exactly how many people using "medical marijuana" actually "need" it? There are plenty of alternatives that real patients have access to instead of marijuana that not only work better, but are used for legitimate purposes. A good portion of those who have prescriptions (specifically in Colorado) don't actually have a medical reason for using. Anyone can walk into a facility and ask for a prescription and be given one. The whole system makes a mockery out of the practice of medicine and is just a work around for many people who only smoke marijuana to get high - nothing more.


So has the ACLU heard back from the Colorado supreme court?


Were does this stand?. This issue needs to be re examined.


What about the situation unfolding in Washington state?
What about the Governor appointing the WSLCB to be in charge of medical cannabis, as well as recreational marijuana; the Director of the WSLCB testified last June 2013 in Washington, D.C. that "90% of medical marijuana patients are fakers." Chaired by Rep. Christopher Hurst (who was also known as Officer Hurst; I find this fascinating that an ex-drug cop chaired Sept. 2013 board, yet not a single physician, much less one experienced with medical cannabis, was on this board to represent patients, as well. It only stands to reason if they are to have their fate decided illegally (the Washington State Liquor Control Board, along with Governor Jay Inslee who appointed them to decide the fate of not only I502 'recreational marijuana law' but also the original compassionate medical cannabis patient law that was voted in by the voters of Washington state in 1998.

If they truly believe so many patients are not suffering from a qualifying disease/condition, then why aren't the doctors who sign these recommendations being taken to task? I have been a legal Washington state medical cannabis patient since Oct. 2006. I had to submit a fair quantity of medical reports & also film(s.) I personally do not know a single patient personally that does not qualify. I use medical cannabis for help with chronic pain, as I suffer from an unrepairable, degenerative lower spine condition. Medical cannabis has helped me greatly with chronic pain, as well as stopping my IBS altogether (what a blessed good side effect!)

What I say to you people who seem to think certain people don't really qualify, often even disabling conditions are not visible physically. I am almost 54 years old, most of the patients I know are at least that age or older; I do know a very few younger ones, who also qualify. What you don't see in mainstream media is that cannabis, when made into a concentrate oil (1 dose is the size of a grain of rice,) that oil can do amazing things. It can kill certain cancers & also will prevent them from occurring. That is because the cannabis is working in tandem with something every single human being has physically; a system in the human body called the "endocannabinoid system." This system does amazing things on it's own but when given cannabis, it does amazing things & these things are being backed up scientifically every single day (mostly in the UK, Switzerland/Netherlands, & Israel - the greatest cannabis researcher in the world lives there & this 82-year-old man who still works 40 hours every week had Dr. Sanjay Gupta recently spend some time at his research labs in Israel. I think you all know what the result of that visit was; Dr. Gupta learned what cannabis really is & what it can do in tandem with the human endocannabinoid system.

One thing the CBD part of cannabis does is stop seizures, usually immediately. They also recently discovered that cannabis can repair brain damage, even traumatic damage, it can somehow create new brain cells (yes, it really can!) Even though I've seen & heard some amazing things, it wasn't until I learned that a friend's wife had suffered a head/brain injury which left a brain lesion. This lesion caused seizures, which they treated by traditional drugs. At one point, the seizure activity increased, so they raised the seizure drug dosage. My friend said his wife had zero memory, could not hold a conversation, was just terrible to see. So he began to make cannabis oil using 190 alcohol (which is completely removed in the process.) Upon orally ingesting the cannabis oil, the seizure activity immediately stopped. Three months later with no seizure activity, the doctor ordered a brain scan. The result of that scan was that the brain lesion was completely gone! You couldn't tell it had ever been there! The doctor was aware my friend had used a form of cannabis to help his wife, & this doctor not only thought it was wonderful, he wanted to know more!
Everything that happened in this case has been proven scientifically in studies. It really works! It shrinks tumors, kills cancers, puts Crohn's into remission, & many, many other things!

It has recently been found to be a neuro-protector (something our own US govt. had patented some years ago while still swearing it was the "weed from hell", etc. ) They also patented how the THC (& the CBDs, or cannabinoids, do this as well) kill cancer without harming healthy cells (it's really quite simple, thanks to our built-in human endocannabinoid system - all vertebra have this system, physically.)

Here I am with the flu trying to explain to you how blessed we are to have this plant that was designed specifically to not only heal you when you are sick, but protect you from things like certain cancers, Alzheimers, & stop Crohn's, as well as the more common but still miserable IBS or migraine.

"Charlotte's Web," the first high CBD/very low, 1% at most THC, bred at the request of a woman with a child with a severe seizure disorder that nothing else had helped at all; cannabis oil helped immediately, & as more studies came out, it was learned that the anti-seizure properties were primarily due to the CBDs in the cannabis (interacting with our built-in endocannabinoid system.) This woman asked an experienced grower if he could breed a cannabis plant that was rich/high in CBDs (cannabinoids,) as well as low to nothing of THC. That man was successful & today "Charlotte's Web" is one of several condition-specific breeds. We patients hope to see more as time goes on. Certain ones have been found to be more effective for diabetics than others (many have been able to lower their insulin doses significantly. We believe or suspect the endocannabinoid system at work again, with the help of cannabis.)

Medical cannabis has greatly helped my chronic pain condition by giving me one more alternative. I do take very low dosage pain medication (I seriously cannot even tolerate sitting up without medication, the damage was that bad & now it is also full of arthritis. The injury was around 5 years old by the time they did an MRI & the damage was obvious. Every single doctor/specialist I've talked with has said to "avoid surgery as long as possible; surgery would most likely worsen the condition for many various reasons.) I have stayed at this same low-dose since I became a legal WA medical cannabis patient in Oct. of 2006.

The first year/visit, I immediately learned some things I hadn't known before (to be honest, I knew nothing really about medical cannabis except that it was good for nausea; I had used cannabis off & on in my life prior to my life-changing accident (a slip & fall in May of '94 - off a top step in a backyard garden, up into the air, & down onto a concrete deck about 4.5' below. I immediately knew I'd seriously hurt myself, but didn't have insurance at the time.)

The first thing I learned was that in order to find out if cannabis could help me, it would take 4-6 months of daily use to build enough up in my system for it to do it's job. I wasn't aware of this prior to my becoming a legal WA patient in 2006. I also learned it would take about that long to get out of my system, if for whatever reason, I did not want it in my system. I also learned that each person responds to different strains differently, often times; what works well for one may not for another. It generally takes a cannabis patient several years at least to find the right combination of strains for their condition(s.) While we do know that some strains seem to help certain conditions better than others, those lessons are a work still in progress, at least medically. We just know it works for MANY things & is a very safe drug, as well. As my doctor said to me that day when we were talking after our visit, "you cannot overdose on it; the worst that will happen is you get hungry & take a nap." This is true!

I also learned to be responsible & low-key/quiet about my use; outside of my online support groups, I generally am very much so. One must have some common sense as a cannabis patient. I'm not sure some of the younger patients have that experience or wish to acquire it; case in point, a young man recently discharged from the army after being in Iraq & now has PSTD.
His girlfriend happened to live in my complex & his behaviour was definitely not something I'd like to see in other patients. He gives us a bad name/rap. I would hope you wouldn't judge all patients by the ones you see that act the fool (generally, the younger crowd.) I think if they cannot use common sense & consume medical cannabis in the privacy of their homes, if they insist on walking down the street smoking a bong, I do apologize. That behaviour does not benefit anyone. I would be as angry at someone walking down the street consuming alcohol, inappropriately. Please try not to judge us by those bad impressions left by others. I don't get out a lot these days because it IS hard on me to travel. I hurt pretty badly for a day or two, depending how far I must go.

I hope because the mainstream media doesn't announce these wondrous discoveries, you must keep an eye peeled for them. I wish I could print out every single study I've looked at in the last year & put it in a folder I could carry with me & show folks. I often feel they think of medical cannabis patients as some kind of crippled up Cheech and Chong and that has to change. Some of us smoke but most vaporize as well as ingest orally. These old stereotypes will only be laughed at when people are informed & the complete & total ignorance surrounding medical cannabis is dispelled.

I find it disheartening that although the US Federal Govt has stated they will not interfere in legalized 'recreational marijuana' in both WA & CO, as long as some ground rules are followed (which I find absolutely no complaint with, at least so far - they seemed common sense, no cannabis to minors, no transporting out of state, etc,) on the White House web site section on legalizing recreational marijuana use, they're still claiming all the old, tired out "Reefer Madness" rhetoric. At least once, often more often each week, there is a new medical discovery that shows cannabis to be very helpful for MANY conditions (that's because human beings have endocannabinoid systems built in from the day we are born!) They are also showing it does little to no damage. One of the first, long-term studies ever was a 50 year study following cigarette smokers who also smoked cannabis. What they found was the group who did smoke cannabis had MUCH lower cancer rates, in general!

Cannabis is a great anti-inflammatory, as well as one of the best anti-spasmodics in the world & it won't damage my heart valves while helping me.

I don't think medical cannabis is for everyone, but many have found much help & real relief when traditional medicine could provide none!
I feel it actually compliments what medicines I find I must take. It helps my apetite, as well as help getting to sleep at times.

I never thought I'd find myself a chronic pain patient with an unrepairable degenerative condition; it's a real hell I wouldn't wish on anyone.
Medical cannabis has made it much more tolerable & when I do smile these days, my smile is sincere.


Thank you!

Sign Up for Breaking News