Foreshadowing an Inevitable Clash: Criminal Probation, Drug Treatment Courts, and Medical Marijuana
80 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2022 Last revised: 7 Nov 2022
Date Written: September 15, 2022
The criminal justice system underwent two revolutionary developments over the past twenty years – the legalization of medical marijuana at the state level, which provides criminal immunity protections for qualifying patients, and the exponential rise of drug treatment courts as alternatives to incarceration. Traditionally, offenders serving probationary sentences are generally prohibited from using drugs as one condition of probation. But courts are now increasingly confronted with challenges to probationary conditions prohibiting the use of medical marijuana in states where it has been legalized. The trend among courts permits the medicinal use of marijuana during probationary sentences and invalidates conditions prohibiting such use for therapeutic purposes. Drug treatment courts are a form of probation that offer intensive treatment services for offenders with substance abuse disorders. Most drug treatment courts across the country operate on an abstinence-based model. While to date there have been no reported challenges to prohibiting the use of medical marijuana by participants in drug treatment court programs, the legal and practical issues are brimming just below the surface, and it is only a matter of time before a clash occurs between criminal immunity provisions under state medical marijuana laws and their consequential applicability in the drug treatment court landscape. This article takes a forward-looking approach by foreshadowing this seemingly straightforward, but complicated question: how will criminal immunity provisions under state medical marijuana laws and the judicial protections afforded to offenders on regular probation be construed by appellate courts when inevitably challenged by drug treatment court participants? This is the first scholarly article to address the knotty legal and practical issues underlying this inquiry. The purpose of this contribution then is to provide future scholars, appellate courts, drug treatment courts, legal actors, and drug treatment court professionals with a robust foundation to draw upon in thinking about the adaptability of medical marijuana use in the drug treatment court domain.
Keywords: probation, medical marijuana, drug courts, drug treatment courts
JEL Classification: K14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation