In more optimistic news, a Florida judge grants a convicted murderer permission to use medical marijuana. The medical marijuana patient in question has schizophrenia, a mental illness commonly associated with cognitive issues and problems with the perception of reality. Although schizophrenia can be quite serious, with the right medication and therapy, those who have it can manage it.
Authorities typically don’t give the same respect to cannabis as other prescription drugs. Especially when a convicted felon asks for permission to use it without violating the terms of their probation.
Some judges think that as long as the federal government considers the herb an outlaw substance, the felonious parolee should not have permission to use it—not even if it is an effective medicine.
According to a report from the Miami Herald, a Florida judge recently decided that it was perfectly acceptable for a convicted murderer named Miguel Valdes, who has suffered for years with schizophrenia, to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program.
The State Attorney’s office argued that Valdes should not get permission to use the herb—all because he tested positive for the substance after beating and stabbing a man to death back in 1999. Prosecutor Gail Levine told the judge that Valdes did not need medical marijuana. She said that the “plethora of medications” he takes keeps him stable.
“He doesn’t need anything else,” Levine said.
But Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Teresa Mary Pooler disagreed. In the end, she sided with Valdes. He told the court that marijuana keeps him “mellow,” allows him to sleep and calms the voices inside his head.
“If the doctor is prescribing this and I’m not going to go past his doctor,” Pooler said. “I’m not going to tell his doctor, ‘Listen, you can’t prescribe this stuff.’”
The ruling granting Valdes permission to use medical marijuana while on parole is a first for Miami. But legal experts say that courts will have to answer the million-dollar question again. Should a convicted criminal have the ability to use medical marijuana once the penitentiary releases them? What if they have a violent past?
Michigan attorney David Rudoi has represented convicts seeking permission to take part in the state medical marijuana program. He says, “some judges allow it,” while others almost never will.
“They’re all over the place,” he said.
The situation really comes down to which judges believe medical marijuana plays a legitimate role in a convict’s overall treatment plan. Or whether they side with the rules of the federal government over medical advice. Since the DEA’s Controlled Substance Act considers anything derived from the cannabis plant a Schedule I drug, federal probationers do not have permission to use the substance for any reason whatsoever.
Fortunately, there are more legal umpires out there these days, like Judge Teresa Mary Pooler, who understand the courts should not be going against the grain of a medical professional.
In Florida, which passed a comprehensive medical marijuana program in 2016, the rules over who can enroll are somewhat loose. The language of the law gives patients suffering from a number of qualified conditions, including AIDS and PTSD, access to cannabis products. As long as they have permission from a doctor.
Medical professionals must register with the state before they can start doling out patient certifications. But they do have carte blanche when it comes to determining whether the “medical use of marijuana would surpass any potential health risks.” If a physician believes cannabis could be beneficial in treating a condition that’s not on the state’s list of qualifying ailments, the patient can get a medical marijuana card. Regardless of violent history.
This is promising news for convicts, like Valdes, who are still under supervision with the state.
The Florida Department of Corrections has confirmed that as long as a convict can show proof of enrollment in Florida’s Medical Marijuana Use Registry, they will not subject them to random drug tests for cannabis. However, parole officers still reserve the right to test for other drugs. So even though the judge has granted a convicted murderer permission to use medical marijuana, all other drugs are off the table.
“If an offender under supervision provides a valid medical marijuana card issued by the Department of Health, he/she will not be drug tested for marijuana use as long as the medical marijuana card remains active,” the department said in a statement. “This does not prevent the offender from being drug tested for other illegal narcotics as required in the orders of supervision.”