NEWS
Missouri Probation Officers Are Sending People Back to Prison for Legally Using Medical Cannabis
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Advocacy groups are trying to stop Missouri courts from sending probationers back to jail for using legal medical cannabis.
Published on July 27, 2021

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Missouri may have legalized medical marijuana in 2018, but this voter-approved law isn’t stopping probation officers from sending people back to jail for using this legal medicine.

Ray Breer is one of many Missourians that has recently had their probation revoked for using state-legal medical cannabis. Breer was initially arrested for possessing non-medical weed back in 2019 and sent to prison. After being released on probation, the 29-year-old chose to go legit and registered as a medical marijuana patient. 

Breer's bipolar disorder and mental health conditions qualified him for the state’s medical-marijuana program. But although the young man's cannabis use was now fully compliant with state law, his probation was revoked after he tested positive for THC. In court, the judge advised him that the court system intends to stop anyone on probation from using medical cannabis.

After being released from jail last month, Breer is back on probation, and could be sent back to prison yet again if he continues to use medical pot. Fortunately, the Canna Convict Project (CCP), an advocacy group focused on finding justice for people arrested for cannabis crimes, has his back. The CCP has already waged legal battles against Missouri's draconian weed laws, and recently helped free a man who was sentenced to 22 years in jail for possessing a single pound of weed.

“Our mission is to assist our non-violent Missouri cannabis inmates—POWs, we call them—with their exit from incarceration, and assisting them with their re-entry needs,” CCP co-founder Christina Frommer told Filter. “They kind of become family. I create a relationship with all of the POWs, with their families. I buy their children presents. We try and give the whole person care.”

CCP is now working with attorney Timothy Intessimone to help fight for Breer and others who have had their probation revoked for exercising their constitutional right to use medical pot. “We’re asking the court to decide and clarify whether [convicts] can lawfully use medical marijuana, with a valid Missouri medical card, while on probation,” said Intessimone to Filter.

“However, that’s not what the case is really about,” he continued. “The case is more about the Missouri Constitution. It is about whether a state agency, acting under state law, under the state constitution, can punish someone while the [medical cannabis] amendment plainly states that they cannot be criminally punished under the state constitution.”

“The probation and parole issue here in Missouri is that PNP [Probation and Parole] and DOC [Department of Corrections] is not recognizing a patient’s ability to medicate while on supervision,” Frommer explained. “Some of the individuals have really cool probation officers or parole officers, and they’ve been allowed to medicate while they’ve been on supervision, no problem. And others have gone as far as receiving sanctions and gotten put back in prison.”

Intessimone believes that Missouri courts are using the ongoing federal prohibition of cannabis as an excuse to deny medical cannabis patients access to their medicine. “Without a doubt, every state that has a medical [marijuana] program had to deal with this in one way or another,” he told Filter. “We’re dealing with a new, multi-billion dollar industry, and we’re at a point where the federal government says, ‘yeah, you can do it, and we’re not going to come in and stop you from doing it.’ But at the same time, they’re saying, ‘well, you can’t do it.’”

Similar battles have been fought in other medical cannabis states. Last year, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that probationers could not be prohibited from using medical marijuana, and the Colorado Supreme Court made a similar ruling in 2019. So there’s still a glimmer of hope that Missouri’s courts will choose to protect patients' legal right to use medical marijuana.

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Chris Moore
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Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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