As a result of testing positive in May 2006 while on probation, California medical marijuana patient Rachel Jones* was charged with violating her probation conditions. Ignoring Rachel’s doctor’s recommendation, which established her status as a qualified patient, her probation officer recommended jail time.
Turning to her attorney, a Los Angeles public defender, Rachel sought to fight the threat of jail time. Unfortunately, her public defender did not believe that Rachel had a viable medical condition, and when she went to court, the judge sentenced Rachel to a year in jail. With nowhere left to turn, Rachel contacted ASA seeking our help.
ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford contacted the Los Angeles public defender office to report the substandard legal representation, and encouraged them to utilize the legal decision in People v. Jones, which upheld a patient’s recommendation as all that is needed for a jury to establish patient status. To her surprise, when Rachel went to court to turn herself in, her attorney got the court to reverse her sentence. Not only did the court set aside Rachel’s sentence, but her attorney was also able to get her probation conditions amended by court order to allow her to consume marijuana while on probation.
As an African-American woman on a fixed income, Rachel was vulnerable, like so many others, to a system that mistreats patients and those with limited means of defense. ASA is determined to fight for the rights of patients like Rachel and, as such, has been working with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to help improve a policy issued November 28, 2006, that exempts patients on probation or parole from testing for marijuana.