People who legally obtain medical marijuana in other states are not exempt from criminal prosecution for possessing it in Wyoming, the state Supreme Court has ruled.
The court unanimously ruled last week in the case of Daniel J. Burns of Boulder, Colorado, who was arrested in March 2009 in Laramie County, Wyoming on a felony drug possession charge after he was caught with more than a pound of marijuana in his vehicle, reports Bob Moen of The Associated Press.
Burns, who has a Colorado medical marijuana card and doctor’s certification to use cannabis for medicinal purposes, argued that Wyoming drug laws exempt people who are prescribed drugs by a doctor.
However, the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled that under Colorado’s medical marijuana laws, doctors to not prescribe marijuana but simply “recommend” use of marijuana for treatment. A person who receives a doctor’s recommendation must apply for the Colorado medical marijuana registry card and the state determines whether to issue one.
This arrangement is made necessary by marijuana’s federal classification as a Schedule I drug, which means the federal government officially recognizes no medical uses for cannabis and doctors may not prescribe it.
“So if a doctor should attempt to prescribe it he would lose his license and, of course, there would be no protection for the patient either,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
“Importantly, it is not the action of the physician that determines any potential possession of marijuana by the patient,” the court opinion, authored by Justice Michael Golden, said. “Clearly, therefore, the physician is not prescribing or ordering the possession of marijuana.”
Tina Kerin, a member of the public defender’s office who served as part of Burns’s defense team, said the team is considering asking the state Supreme Court to rehear the case. Rehearings are rarely granted by the Supreme Court, she said.
Colorado is one of 15 states and the District of Columbia that have passed medical marijuana laws.
It’s important for medical cannabis patients to understand that they can’t possess the drug in states where it is illegal, according to advocates.
“This certainly should serve as a wake-up call to Colorado’s 100,000-plus medical marijuana patients that their rights will not necessarily be respected in Wyoming and other states,” said Brian Vicente of the cannabis advocacy group Sensible Colorado.