DENVER (AP) – Colorado lawmakers started work Thursday on a proposal to allow people on probation or parole to use medical marijuana.
The state has allowed medical marijuana use for 15 years – but not for people on probation or parole.
A bill facing its first test Thursday in the state House would change that policy by saying that pot use doesn’t amount to a probation violation for people with medical clearance to use the drug.
“If it’s in the constitution, you should have the right to use it on probation,” said Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton and sponsor of the bill.
The change wouldn’t apply to probationers whose crime was related to marijuana.
Colorado’s hearing comes two days after Arizona’s highest court ruled that marijuana patients in that state should be allowed to use the drug while on probation or parole.
Rhode Island and the U.S. Virgin Islands also allow probationers to use medical marijuana, according to the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project. California law specifies that anyone on parole can ask the courts to be allowed to smoke medical marijuana after being released from jail or prison.
Other states have seen a mish-mash of responses in the courts on whether people can smoke pot while on probation and parole.
Colorado’s Court of Appeals ruled in 2012 that people on probation should not be allowed to use medical marijuana. State analysts who reviewed the bill weren’t sure how many people currently wind up back in jail because they fail a marijuana-related drug test while serving probation or parole.
Marijuana advocates planned to support the bill, saying that if Colorado considers marijuana an appropriate medicine, it should be allowed for use by people serving probation and parole.
“We don’t blink an eye at letting people on probation continue to use their pharmaceutical meds,” said Jason Warf, head of the Southern Colorado Cannabis Council.