Arizona court: People on probation can't be barred from using medical pot if they follow rules

Associated Press

Arizonans with medical marijuana cards can't be barred from using the drug simply for being on probation, the state Supreme Court concluded Tuesday in a ruling that will have ripple effects across the state.

The court said immunity granted by a 2010 voter-approved law extends to people on probation, and prohibiting them from using medical pot is illegal.

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"This (immunity) policy would be severely compromised if the state and a defendant could bargain away the defendant's ability to lawfully use medical marijuana," the Supreme Court wrote, noting the law doesn't prohibit people convicted of drug offenses from using medical marijuana.

The rulings were made in cases involving marijuana card holders in Cochise and Yavapai counties in which people who entered plea deals protested the ban on their legal pot use.

In Cochise County, authorities prohibited Keenan Reed-Kaliher from medical marijuana use after he was sentenced to more than one year in prison for his guilty pleas on charges of pot possession for sale and attempted possession of a narcotic for sale.

Reed-Kaliher, who had a marijuana card for pain from a hip injury, protested the probation condition, arguing the 2010 law protects him from prosecution. Authorities argued that banning medical marijuana use for people on probation was reasonable and noted that those on probation can be barred from legal activity, such as drinking alcohol.

The Supreme Court said a judge can condition probation on a person's agreement to refrain from legal conduct, but a court can't impose a condition of probation that violates state law.

The second case considered by the Supreme Court centers on Jennifer Ferrell, a marijuana card holder who had pleaded guilty to drunken driving in Yavapai County. She protested a condition of her probation that barred medical marijuana use.

Ferrell argued the probation condition conflicted with the marijuana law, while prosecutors contended Ferrell waived any rights she had under the pot law by agreeing to the condition.