Lebanon County, Pa.- Anthony Civitarese, single dad with 2 kids, says a new policy handed down by a Lebanon County judge has him worried the life he fought to put back together is going to fall apart.
“I did everything they asked me to do and now all of a sudden they are threatening to throw me in jail,” said Anthony Civitarese.
Civitarese is on probation for a 2017 simple assault conviction. He also has a medical marijuana ID card issued by the state.
“I use medical marijuana for chronic back pain,” said Civitarese. “I have 4 months left to go on my probation. I have been using the medicine since March without any problems. I have a full-time job…and I put in long days lifting”
Lebanon County President Judge John Tylwalk issued a new policy, effective September 1, 2019, prohibiting anyone under supervision by Lebanon County Probation from using medical marijuana, even if they have a card.
“The issue had been raised at meetings of both Judges and Probation Officers statewide and the belief on our part was that, rather than uncertainty, we wanted to have a policy in place so that there was no confusion among those being supervised as to what our position is,” said President Judge John C. Tylwalk, Court of Common Pleas of Lebanon County.
The policy states “the medical marijuana card is not a prescription for medication but rather a recommendation by a physician”. It goes on to say “Under the Federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970 marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance, which by definition under law, have a high potential for abuse and dependency”.
Judge Tylwalk says the Court has a broad authority to impose conditions of supervision, “so long as they promote a defendant’s rehabilitation.”
“We believe this policy serves that purpose,” said Judge Tylwalk. “Marijuana remains a Schedule I Drug under Federal and Pennsylvania Law with no current federally accepted medical use and with a high potential for abuse. In addition, marijuana has not been approved for medically assisted treatment, and we believed that our Probation Department should not knowingly allow violations of the law to occur.”
Lebanon County is in the 48th District which is represented by Senator Mike Folmer, a prime sponsor of the bill that legalized medical marijuana in Pennsylvania.
“They want to put people who went through the steps of getting it legally, as an alternative medication, back in jail. I just want to know what good that brings. It is a waste of taxpayer money. It’s a waste of the probation officer’s time. This is a joke,” said Senator Mike Folmer, (R) 48th District/ Lebanon, Dauphin, And York Counties.
Lebanon County is the first county in the Midstate to enact a policy prohibiting those on probation from using medical marijuana.
“I am hoping that we wake up here in Lebanon County and understand that if counties are not forbidding this in their probationary process that this recommendation be treated like any other prescription and it should be, that was the intent of the law,” said Senator Folmer.
The new policy gives offenders currently under supervision 30 days to discontinue use of medical marijuana.
“I could lose my kids, lose my house, everything I have for using my medicine the way the law tells me to use it. It makes no sense,” said Civitarese.
Judge Tylwalk says Civitarese is not being punished for “following” the law.
“He is being punished-being on probation-because he violated the law. He committed a crime- a fact which sometimes seems to get ignored in the debate. Our society countenances the restriction of a person’s individual liberties if that person commits a crime, and this person is no different. He is responsible for the fact that the policy would apply to him, based on his own criminal behavior,” said Tylwalk.
Disclosed below is a copy of the judge’s policy.