ACLU takes fight over Lebanon medical marijuana probation policy to state Supreme Court

Lebanon

LEBANON, Pa. (WHTM) — The ACLU is taking its fight over a controversial medical marijuana policy in Lebanon County to the state’s highest court.

ACLU attorneys filed briefs Wednesday with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in relation to that policy, which prohibits those on probation in Lebanon County from using medical marijuana, even if they have a card.

ABC27 was the first to report on the policy which was introduced last September. Soon after, the ACLU quickly filed suit. Then, the state Supreme Court stepped in and halted the policy while they looked it over. But representatives from the ACLU say they don’t want a temporary hold; they want the policy to be ended permanently.

In the new filings which list at least three plaintiffs, the ACLU argues that Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act, adopted in 2016, “broadly immunizes patients from being subject to arrest, prosecution or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, solely for the lawful use of medical marijuana.”

“You cannot have a blanket policy depriving an entire class of people of something that is statutorily authorized,” said Patrick Nightingale, a criminal defense attorney and medical marijuana reform advocate.

He says it is a legal medicinal drug, so Lebanon County’s policy is overstepping its bounds. He calls the county’s proposal a knee jerk reaction based in fear.

“Medical cannabis can easily be tracked by working with the person on supervision and the dispensary,” said Nightingale.

The policy took effect Sept. 1 and reads, in part: “Since marijuana use is deemed illegal under federal law, the court and the probation department should not knowingly allow violations of law to occur. Schedule I drugs have a high potential for abuse and dependency, with no recognized medical use or value.”

“That’s a disgusting statement, I mean really, it’s highly offensive,” Nightingale said. “Is Lebanon County’s court of common pleas now suddenly cannabis experts, do they have medical degrees?”

President Judge John C. Tylwalk has said the court does have broad authority to impose conditions of supervision, saying “Marijuana remains a Schedule I drug — with no current federally accepted medical use and with a high potential for abuse.”

“I don’t think that Lebanon County fully understands how regulated the system is,” Nightingale said.

Soon, Lebanon County is expected to file its brief. Oral arguments will follow in court. Those, according to the ACLU, are set to begin most likely in late spring or early summer.

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