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Medical Marijuana Use by Arizona Probationer Cannot Support Violation

The Arizona Supreme Court held on April 7, 2015 that “any probation term that threatens to revoke probation for medical marijuana use that complies with the terms of AMMA [the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act] is unenforceable and illegal under AMMA.”

Before the Court was an appellate ruling that reversed a condition of probation imposing a “no marijuana” restriction. Keenan Reed-Kaliher pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana for sale and attempted possession of a narcotic drug for sale. He received a split sentence of prison and probation, which required him to “obey all laws.”

Following his release from prison, Reed-Kaliher received a registry identification card from the Arizona Department of Health Services that identified him as a “registered qualifying patient” under the AMMA to receive marijuana for chronic pain from a fractured hip.

The Arizona Supreme Court found the AMMA includes an immunity provision that protects marijuana users from being “subject to arrest, prosecution or penalty in any manner, or denial of any right or privilege...,” as long as their use or possession complies with the terms of the law. The Court held that provision does not exclude probationers, and that compliance with the AMMA prohibits probation conditions or revocation by state courts for marijuana possession or use under state law.

“The State nonetheless argues that prohibiting one convicted of a drug crime from using marijuana should be permitted because it is a reasonable and necessary condition of probation,” the Court noted. “Our job here, however, is not to determine the appropriateness of the term, but rather to determine its legality. While the State can and should include reasonable and necessary terms of probation, it cannot insert illegal ones.”

The Supreme Court further found it had no obligation to comply with federal law, and held state courts cannot incorporate federal law into a probationer’s terms when state law provides otherwise. Accordingly, the decision of the Court of Appeals was affirmed, striking down the “no marijuana” condition of Reed-Kaliher’s probation. See: Reed-Kaliher v. Hoggatt, 37 Ariz. 119, 347 P.3d 136 (Ariz. 2015). 

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Related legal case

Reed-Kaliher v. Hoggatt