A Sutter County, California judge was wrong in not allowing a man who had been convicted of transporting methamphetamine to use medical marijuana while on probation, appellate justices ruled on Friday.
In a 22-page ruling, the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento said Vernon Emile Smith Jr., 23, of Sacramento, had a right to use medical marijuana with a doctor’s authorization under California’s Compassionate Use Act, reports Rob Young at the Marysville Appeal-Democrat.
Judge Brian Aronson had heard Smith’s July 2009 request to modify the terms of his probation to allow medicinal cannabis use, according to Sutter County Superior Court records.
In denying that request, Judge Aronson pointed to Smith’s previous violation of probation — misdemeanor vandalism — and the doctor’s omission of the exact reason why Smith needed medical marijuana. The doctor described it as a “serious medical condition.”
The judge described Smith’s citation of the Compassionate Use Act as “insufficient,” Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote.
Smith’s attorney at the time said the judge was “not in a position to go behind the doctor-patient privilege and inquire as to the efficacy of the doctor’s statement,” according to the ruling.
“Here, (the doctor’s) professional opinion … that defendant may benefit from marijuana provided no basis for concluding that defendant’s showing of eligibility under the Compassionate Use Act was ‘insufficient,’ Cantil-Sakauye wrote.
California’s medical marijuana law allows probationers to ask courts for permission to use cannabis medicinally. Smith “sufficiently established his eligibility to use marijuana” under the act, Cantil-Sakauye wrote.
“We do not perceive why and we are not inclined to speculate exactly how the defendant’s showing could be viewed as insufficient when the statute squarely places the onus on the trial court (not the appellate court) to specify the reasons for its decision,” she wrote.
She added that “it is possible that a legitimate, rational reason exists to preclude (Smith) from using medical marijuana while on probation” and ordered a new hearing in Sutter County Superior Court.