A twenty-four-year-old medical marijuana patient in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, spent ten days behind bars after a blood test showed THC in his system despite his legal use of the plant.
CBS Pittsburgh reports that Sampson Bailey was in court on unrelated charges from last year related to credit card fraud when an unnamed judge speculated that he was high and demanded that he take a drug test. Though Bailey denies showing up in court under the influence of cannabis, his test came up positive for THC (even one single use of cannabis stays in the system for at least one to two days, meaning the positive test result did not prove he was actually high in court).
As a result of the drug test, the judge ordered Bailey to Allegheny County Jail, where he eventually spent ten days. Part the of the reason for his wrongful imprisonment was that he didn’t have his medical marijuana card on him when he was in court, though he informed the judge he was a legal patient. The Inquirer, based in Philadelphia, reports that while records show he got his authorization in February, he says he never received the card and believes it may have been sent to the wrong address.
“A simple call to the Department of Health can verify that someone is active with the program,” Patrick Nightingale, an attorney who specializes in cannabis law, told CBS.
“At least get this individual the opportunity to demonstrate to the court that, yes, I am a registered patient and I simply don’t physically have my patient identification with me.”
Bailey had to wait in jail until his doctor, Stacy Lane, could confirm to the court that he was, in fact, a medical patient. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, “[m]edical marijuana patients are required by law to keep their identification cards on them when they have medical marijuana in their possession, but are not required to keep the card on them at all times.”
Nightingale advises patients to carry their card on them at all times, though Lane told the Inquirer many patients don’t want to take the risk because of the card’s value and importance. “It’s like carrying around your passport,” she said.
Bailey says he doesn’t even smoke cannabis and simply uses non-psychoactive cannabidiol oil to increase his appetite and help him take traditional medications without pain. However, Nightingale explained to CBS that this form of treatment can produce a false positive for THC consumption on a drug test.
Regardless, Lane believes the current policy regarding mandatory documentation is unfair. “This is ridiculous,” she said, noting she has two patients who have experienced legal complications or issues with their employers. “The law has to recognize that these people have these certified conditions.”
The Inquirer reports that in Pennsylvania, law enforcement officers do not have access to the state database of cannabis patients and rely solely on the patients’ cards.
According to April Hutcheson, a Pennsylvania Department of Health spokeswoman, officers can call the department to verify a patient’s status but that “ there is currently no dedicated phone line or established process for law enforcement to do so,” the Inquirer reports.
“I don’t know that it’s been an issue,” she said. “This is a new program and there will be things that come up that are unique.”
This lack of organization evidently has real consequences that are depriving patients of their rights even when they are complying with legalization policies.
“When they put me in handcuffs I was really confused, I didn’t understand what was going on,” Bailey said. “That was the hardest 10 days of my life.”
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