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Lebanon County court responds to ACLU lawsuit that could head to PA Supreme Court over medical marijuana policy

The 52nd Judicial District has responded to a lawsuit filed over its policy that stops people on probation from using medical marijuana, even if they have a car...

The 52nd Judicial District has responded to a lawsuit filed over its policy that stops people on probation from using medical marijuana, even if they have a card. The response was filed as the case is transferred to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for consideration.

FOX43’s Jamie Bittner broke the story on Melissa Gass, who is on probation in Lebanon County and who lives with epilepsy. She has joined Ashley Bennett and Andrew Koch in the lawsuit filed on behalf of the ACLU against the Lebanon County Judicial District.

In an answer to the to the application for special relief, the Judicial District states in part, “the Judicial District promulgated the Policy after the Office began to experience disruption in probation services and persistent difficulty supervising probationers and parolees who use medical marijuana.”

Read the full response from the 52nd Judicial District here.

Read Lebanon County’s probation policy.

It adds, “some individuals under court supervision with medical marijuana prescriptions are unable to identify the health condition that led to the medical marijuana prescription. The Office also found a significant amount of individuals under supervision, who possess a medical marijuana card, that have a history of marijuana abuse and/or their underlying charges are related to the unlawful possession of marijuana.”

“Additionally, drug testing for illicit use of marijuana is also rendered meaningless if an individual has a prescription for the legal use of medical marijuana as the laboratory is unable to discern between legal and illegal strands of marijuana,” said the Judicial District.

The Judicial District adds in its response, the Board of Judges enacted the policy after careful review of FDA research, which does not recognize medical marijuana as a treatment for medical conditions. The district adds, the review of factors also included an evaluation of safety concerns for the community and determination of substance abuse treatment options for probationers as some have providers that will not treat anyone who has a medical marijuana card because of the risk of relapse.

Additionally, the Judicial District points to probation rules, which states people on probation cannot use any mind/mood altering chemical/substance and that people on probation must comply with all municipal, county, state and federal criminal laws.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Pennsylvania since 2016. But, the federal government still views it as illegal and a Schedule I drug.

What is a Schedule I drug?

The ACLU announced the lawsuit earlier this month.

Read the Lawsuit here.

“The plain language in the medical marijuana law shows that the legislature intended to protect all patients, including those on probation,” said Witold Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “Judges may not agree with the Medical Marijuana Act, or may not support people using marijuana for any reason, but they must follow the law.”

Follow the story of Melissa Gass from the beginning when she spoke first exclusively to FOX43.

The story of Melissa Gass.

Melissa Gass rallies at the Capitol.

ACLU announces lawsuit against 52nd Judicial District, Lebanon County.

See all court postings regarding the Gass, Bennett & Koch, et al. v. 52nd Judicial District:

Answer to Application for Special Relief

Supreme Court Briefing Schedule

Transfer To The Supreme Court

Application For Emergency Relief

Brief ER Relief

Petition For Review