On February 2, 2012, a division of the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that a trial court was wrong to approve the use of medical marijuana by a defendant on probation. In the case of People v. Leonard Watkins, Mr. Watkins pled guilty to a felony in Arapahoe County and was placed on probation for 6 years. Among his conditions of probation, Mr. Watkins was not to violate any laws and not use or possess any narcotic, dangerous or abusable substance without a prescription. Soon after being placed on probation, Mr. Watkins received a certificate from the State of Colorado for the medical use of marijuana. The Probation Department asked for direction from the court and the court entered an order approving Mr. Watkins’ use of medical marijuana. The District Attorney appealed the court’s order approving medical marijuana.
The Court of Appeals noted that the use of marijuana even for medical purposes is a violation under federal law and thus would violate Mr. Watkins’ condition of probation that he not commit any new offenses while on probation. Colorado’s medical marijuana amendment did not offer any protection for Mr. Watkins because it is not a prescription from a doctor but a certification that the patient has a debilitating medical condition and might benefit from the medical use of marijuana. Based on this, the Court of Appeals held that the physician’s certification was not a written lawful prescription that was required under the terms of Mr. Watkins’ probation. Finally, since probation is considered a privilege and reasonable conditions of probation can be imposed that curtail a probationer’s rights, any constitutional right to use medical marijuana in Colorado may be curtailed during the term of Mr. Watkins’ probationary sentence.