Can Washington Courts Deny Pot To Offenders On Probation?

By Jessica Robinson

Here’s the latest wrinkle in implementing Washington’s new marijuana law: Can courts restrict people on probation from using pot recreationally? That question was the subject of a committee hearing Monday in Olympia.

Under Washington law, a judge can order a felon to refrain from alcohol as one of the terms of the offender's court supervision.

The idea is that drinking could lead someone to re-offend, says Lisa Johnson. She handles sexual assault cases for the King County Prosecutor's Office.

Lisa Johnson: “Similarly, while I appreciate that the citizens of this state have legalized marijuana, it too is a dis-inhibitor and, like alcohol, the court should have the discretion to control its use.”

But Ben Livingston of the Center for Legal Cannabis told state senators that alcohol is fundamentally different from pot. He thinks denying the new marijuana law from supervised felons would be a step backward.

Ben Livingston: “Especially two months after we just legalized cannabis, I don't understand how that is the first thing on our agenda.”

Other marijuana advocates urged the committee on law and justice to allow an exception for medical marijuana users.

The bill would not change anything in the voter-approved pot law. Washington is holding a series of meetings around the state about how to implement a growing and distribution system for marijuana.

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