ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — It’s been almost ten years since medical marijuana has been approved for medicinal reasons, but not everyone is able to use the drug even when it’s prescribed to them. “People that are sentenced to probation in this Adirondack region, are being denied use of their prescribed marijuana,” said Julie Garcia, a lawyer in Warrens County. Garcia said to her knowledge, this is affecting people in Warren, Essex and Clinton Counties.

Garcia said the main problem is that when people are denied medical marijuana they are more likely to use opioids. “So I don’t think that there needs to be a legislative change, I think we just all need to be on the same page if we’re interested in public safety and wanting to save lives because allowing people to use medical marijuana is actually going to keep us safer,” she said.

In 2020, Garcia filed a motion against Warren County on behalf of her defendant, Justin Dunning who was charged with criminal mischief in the third degree and one year probation. In part his probation conditions read: “The use and/or possession of marijuana is prohibited for the duration of the probation sentence whether or not, it is prescribed for medical purposes.”

One year prior, Dunning had back surgery and needed the prescription for chronic pain. “He did not wanna take opioids, even though he could have taken them while he was on probation he wanted to just continue to use the medical marijuana. He felt that was the safer option for him, and his medical provider felt the same,” said Garcia. The motion was originally opposed and the Warren County judge denied Dunning the medicine.

Garcia recently reargued the motion in front of a new judge who allowed Dunning his prescription. “We actually have to change some of the policies and procedures. To me, cannabis legalization is one of the best things we’ve done as far as addressing the opioid epidemic,” said Garcia.