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Article 18  Attorney Opinion: Gass v Lebanon County Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Case

Re: Pennsylvania Supreme Court Decision in Gass, Bennet, and Koch v. 52nd Judicial District, Lebanon County

DISCLOSURE: I am an attorney licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Any thoughts, views, or opinions are that of Christopher D. Mandracchia, Esq. This does not establish an attorney-client relationship and is not legal advice. Marijuana is currently illegal under federal law.

Chief Justice Saylor issued an opinion decided on June 18, 2020, disapproving of a policy of Lebanon County that banned individuals from using medical marijuana while on probation. The Petitioners were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”), where they successfully challenged the policy. This decision makes it clear that those who are lawfully using Medical Marijuana pursuant to the Medical Marijuana Act (hereinafter the “MMA”)1 are permitted to do so while under the supervision of the court. 

The MMA, 35 P.S. §10231.2103(a), contains an immunity provision that provides that “[n]one of the following shall be subject to arrest, prosecution or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, . . . solely for lawful use of medical marijuana . . . or for any other action taken in accordance with this act.” Id. The policy banning medical marijuana use was in violation of the provisions of the MMA. Specifically, the policy required probationers to bear the burden of overcoming this presumption by proving medical necessity and lawfulness of use. 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the “…District cannot require statelevel adherence to the federal prohibition, where the General Assembly has specifically undertaken to legalize the use of medical marijuana for enumerated therapeutic purposes.” This holding protects the rights of those under the supervision of the court system who lawfully use medical marijuana in accordance with the MMA. This is a win for medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. We hope to see many more decisions that are consistent with the rights of Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Patients.

1Act of April 17, 2016, P.L. 84, No. 16 (codified at 35 P.S. §§10231.101-10231.2110). 

Christopher D. Mandracchia, Esq. is a successful trial attorney and cannabis advocate with extensive experience working in the criminal justice system as both a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney. He is well-versed in the Controlled Substance Drug Device and Cosmetics Act, medical marijuana laws, and cannabis-related legal issues. His caseload includes interesting legal issues pertaining to marijuana, medical marijuana, hemp, and CBD. Mr. Mandracchia chairs the Montgomery Bar Association Medical Marijuana & Hemp Law Committee, is a lifetime member of the NORML Legal Committee, the National Association of Cannabis Business, the PBA Medical Marijuana & Hemp Law Committee, and Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Mr. Mandracchia is admitted to practice law in Pennsylvania and is admitted in the United States District Courts of the Eastern and Middle District. He handles matters primarily in Montgomery County, Berks County, Philadelphia County, and in the Federal Court System.


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