This floor was published in partnership with The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization treating the U.S. criminal justice system. Sign up for their newsletter here .

When Melissa Gass, a mother of five in central Pennsylvania, was 10, she was in a car crash, and her psyche slammed into the windshield. Ever since, she’s suffered convulsions, which occur with weekly and sometimes daily frequency and are life-threatening. When one is coming on, she feels a throbbing tendernes in the back left side of her brain; the next thing she knows, she’s waking up outside with her face on the ground–or in an intensive care unit at a hospital, often having urinated or excreted on herself. Someone, either a medical professional or a family member if she’s at home, has to inject diazepam gel into her rectum to keep her alive.

But medical marijuana has been law in Pennsylvania since 2016 , and Gass, 42, secured a doctor’s certification for it last-place February, courtroom records demonstrate. She started taking a small amount–a dot of cannabis petroleum in a spoonful of peanut butter three times a day, or a plummet on her gums if she felt an attack coming on–and the convulsions all but stopped. She got her life back. She no longer self-medicated with benzodiazepines, sleeping capsule, and booze, which are far more addictive and dangerous, especially when work together . She was able to be the mom she wanted to be again. And she was ready to go back to work at the nursing home where, before the convulsions became too debilitating, she’d long been applied as a custodian, she says.

Then, in September, her Lebanon County probation officer has been said that due to a new tribunal program there, she had until the end of the month to stop using marijuana or else she might go to jail.

Gass is on probation because back in 2016, she affected her husband of 20 years. Harmonizing to courtroom records, she does not remember the fight because at the time, she was mixing medications to ease her symptoms. She was arrested for simple assault. Her husband expected attorneys not to press charges, to no avail, he says. The couple made up and remain together.

But as part of Gass’ ongoing court oversight, her probation man informed her, she would now have to get drug-tested for marijuanas. That entail no cannabis lubricant, even though it is legal–and even though, soon after she was forced to stop go it, she had more than 20 seizures in two weeks, she says.

Following years of research demonstrating that marijuana can be a life-changing treatment for people with cancer, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, PTSD, eating disorders, nausea and epilepsy, and that it is neither physically addictive nor an evident danger to public safety, the pharmaceutical has been allowed for medical use in 33 states and for adults over 21 to smoke recreationally in 11. Yet for most people on probation or parole–even in accurately these same states–drug testing remains the rule, and prison day the potential punishment.

The argument that numerous parole and probation authorities make for this seeming opposition is that regardless of whether marijuana has been decriminalize in their territory, it remains illegal at the federal height , and that if you’re under government supervising for committing a crime, you should at the very least have to follow all government and federal statutes. Some parole and probation officials likewise point out that they drug-test their own patrolmen, so the person or persons they oversee should be held to at least the same standard.

” I don’t know of any paroling sovereignties who is currently casual about marijuana–it’s part of their institutional culture, and old-fashioned attires are hard to break ,” said Edward E. Rhine, a former chastenings official in multiple states and an expert on parole at the Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice at the University of Minnesota Law School.” Patently most people couldn’t conceive of marijuana being allowed inside a prison, even if that prison is in a state where it has been legalized .”

A handful of states where marijuana is now legal, though, have taken action to make it available to beings on probation or parole. Arizona’s supreme court of the united states regulated in 2015 that medical marijuana patients cannot be arrested or jailed for taking their medication, even if they are under court supervision. An Oregon appeals court in 2018 questioned a same decision.

Within Pennsylvania, where there isn’t yet any such rule statewide, different districts have different plans. If Melissa Gass lived in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, for example, she would be allowed to take her cannabis oil.

In other governments where there haven’t been major court cases, district courts and even individual probation detectives are often responsible for deciding whether to drug-test–and maybe jail–those under their control. Some do so only when marijuana or stimulants were related to someone’s underlying crime.

Gass is now the induce plaintiff in a lawsuit by the ACLU of Pennsylvania challenging the court rule in Lebanon County that proscribes parolees and probationers who have a prescription for medical marijuana from utilizing it.( The arrangement says that at least a half dozen other districts statewide have a same plan .) Her advocates are registering a brief with the nation state supreme court this month, and the case is expected to be argued in the summer.

The ACLU’s position is that these districts’ patterns contradict the letter and intent of Pennsylvania’s 2016 medical marijuana constitution, which protected medical marijuana patients from any criminal sanction. The legislation expressly prohibited people in prison from possessing potty, but did not expressly eliminate those on parole or probation. The advocates likewise point out that people under court supervision can still use opioids with a prescription–which is far more of a public health concern in this day and age, especially in Pennsylvania .

Lebanon County’s President Judge John C. Tylwalk responded in court papers that the process of following rules assists parties with their overall rehabilitation, and that no one will be immediately to imprisonment for neglecting a drug test without going a hearing firstly. The county also said that probation officials had been knowledge rigor with administering people on marijuana and with getting them to undertake drug treatment, which is often a key part of supervision.

But until the position supreme court makes a decision, it has come up with a hold on the policy, and Gass can go back to her treatment regimen.

“I’m not trying to fight the system,” said Gass, who has fought with self-harm and once attempted suicide.” I just don’t want to die .”

In Colorado, where anyone can smoke a bong or seam freely, a parolee called Mark Paulsen is still being tested for marijuana–even though he is about to die.

In 2009, Paulsen, a former mechanic who is an alcoholic, blacked out while drinking and assaulted two relationships with a spear( neither was killed ). He was sentenced to prison for a decade, records present. There, his hepatitis of the liver deteriorated, becoming end-stage cirrhosis by the time he was liberated last year.

Paulsen, 64, is now on parole outside Denver. He is visibly ill, jaundiced, and constantly bleeding. He has peach-sized tumors in his abdomen, which he says make walking around feel like jumping up and down with heavy, jagged rocks in his belly. And his nausea is so severe that he has at times gone weeks without ingesting solid food.” The always-there-ness” of the gut ache, he said,” is what goes you .”

As he waits to die, there have been all the challenges familiar to people on parole. He get out of prison with no coin or health insurance, and has to go to the emergency room instead of to a specialist because he’s in such immediate tendernes, he says. There, he has racked up insurmountable medical debt.

The only things that they are able to ease his evidences are opioids or medical marijuana, but the former is something that physicians ought to have distrustful to prescribe, amid a nationwide epidemic. The latter, Paulsen believes, would seem the answer.( He also has been sober ever since his crime and is not ” drug-seeking ,” he highlights .)

Yet every morning, he has to call his parole agency, he says. If he is randomly selected that day, he must ride the bus an hour and a half, those sharp-worded boulders in his gut jostling, to take a drug test. And if he flunks one, he could be sent back to prison for whatever time he has left before dying.

A spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Improvement said that if a parolee has a prescription for medical marijuanas, the agency in most instances is willing to ” working in collaboration with ” that person to avoid being sanctioned for the utilization of it. She later lent,” Our parole team is going to reach out immediately to Mr. Paulsen to see what relief they can provide .”

” What everyone retains remembering ,” Paulsen said,” is that I am a patient .”


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