Russell Hebets June 2, 2015

On May 8th, Governor Hickenlooper signed House Bill 1267 into law, which concerns the use of medical marijuana while an individual is on probation.

Before this law, if a person with a prescription for medical marijuana was put on probation, that person could not use medical marijuana or else risk violation of probation. A condition of probation is to not commit any new offenses. Since marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, that person would be committing a new offense and would be violating the conditions of his or her probation. Now, with the passage of this law, individuals on probation who are prescribed medical marijuana can continue to use it without violating probation.

Debate Surrounding Bill’s Passage

The use of medical marijuana while on probation was a controversial issue during debates in the Colorado House and Senate. Opponents of the measure believed that people on probation are subject to different public safety concerns than the average individual. These challengers felt that allowing people on probation to use marijuana was too lenient after having committed another crime. However, supporters of the measure argued that allowing access to medical marijuana was not contradictory to the purpose of probation. Individuals taking conventional prescription drugs are allowed to continue use while on probation. Rather than deny people access to a medication they need, supporters argued that medical marijuana should be considered the same as any other prescription. At the end of the discussion, the support outweighed the opposition and this law passed both the House and Senate with a clear majority.

Treating Medical Marijuana the Same as Other Prescriptions

There are several steps an individual must complete in order to get a medical marijuana card. This differs from the process of getting regular medication, where all you need is a doctor’s prescription and a pharmacy will fill it for you. To get a medical marijuana card, a doctor needs to complete an in-person examination and believe that medical marijuana is the best treatment option. After getting a recommendation from your doctor, you will fill out a form for the state government that includes identification questions and specifies how you plan on obtaining the medical marijuana, whether you grow it yourself or will buy it at a dispensary. Once those steps are completed, you’ll receive your card and will be on the state’s registry for individuals with medical marijuana prescriptions. Medical marijuana has been legal in Colorado since 2000, and supporters of this measure felt the change was long overdue. Individuals on probation had been allowed to continue use of other prescriptions for medical needs. With the passage of this law, medical marijuana will be considered the same as any other medication prescribed by a doctor.

When This Law Won’t Apply

There are two situations where this law will not apply to you. First, your crime cannot be marijuana-related. The new law specifically stipulates that this exception is only allowed for individuals’ whose crimes are not related to marijuana. Second, if a judge determines that abstaining from medical marijuana is “necessary and appropriate” to accomplishing the goals of probation, you will not be allowed to use your medical marijuana card while on probation. This prohibition is solely up to an individual judge’s discretion. Even if the crime you are charged with is unrelated to marijuana, there is a chance you may not be able to use your card. However, if these two circumstances do not occur in your case, you will be allowed to consume medical marijuana while on probation.

Change for the better?

This change in policy should bring about a positive change for those individuals on probation who have a prescription for medical marijuana. However, we will wait and see if any new issues arise from passage of this law.