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ACLU sues Berks court system over medical marijuana policies

The ACLU of Pennsylvania has filed a lawsuit challenging two Berks County court policies that prohibit people from participating in treatment court programs as long as they use medical marijuana.

Lawyers for the petitioners, Air Force veteran Damon Monyer of Reading and the Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition, are asking the state Commonwealth Court to review the policies they contend are illegal under state law.

“The result of the policy governing Veterans Treatment Court is emblematic of the problems caused by these unlawful restrictions on lawful medical marijuana use,” the suit states, “as it prevents veterans like petitioner Damon Monyer from accessing the benefits of the program.”

Berks County’s treatment courts, including its Veterans Treatment Court, divert qualified people from the criminal justice system if they agree to adhere to the rules of the rehabilitative programs that target underlying problems of criminal behavior.

The district attorney’s website describes the mission of treatment court programs as endeavoring to “integrate substance abuse/mental health treatment with the justice system for the promotion of public safety, individual responsibility, and reduction of drug/alcohol-related recidivism.”

According to the suit:

Monyer is a decorated combat veteran of the Iraq War who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, along with severe chronic pain as a result of his service.

Medical marijuana gives Monyer the ability to control the triggers for his PTSD and manage his physical pain without the use of addictive pain medications.

Despite the significant benefits that medical marijuana affords Monyer and other veterans, the Berks court system maintains two policies that forced them to choose between treating their serious medical conditions and participating in treatment court programs.

The court’s policies violated Pennsylvania’s 2016 Medical Marijuana Act. Under that act, patients are entitled to broad immunity from arrest, prosecution or the denial of any right or privilege based solely on their use of medical marijuana.

The lawyers cite case law that lower courts cannot deny probation to medical marijuana users nor force them to prove a medical necessity for its use. Despite that ruling, the Berks court system continues to prohibit people in treatment courts from using medical marijuana.

In their brief in support of the application for special relief, lawyers for Monyer ask a Commonwealth Court judge to grant an preliminary injunction blocking the Berks County Court Veterans Treatment Court and Berks County Adult Probation and Parole from enforcing the medical marijuana prohibition policy against Monyer until the question of the legality of those policies is resolved.

District Attorney John T. Adams, whose office has a say on who is accepted into the treatment court programs, said he has not seen the suit. He declined to comment.

Source: Berkshire mont

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