Even a Convicted Murderer Can Get a Medical Marijuana Card
Former inmate, Miguel Valdes, was convicted in 1999 of a gang-related homicide. Now 34, he was just 15 years old at the time of the crime. The victim was beaten and stabbed by Valdes and another man, and police noted a gang marking carved into his forehead when they discovered his body.
At the time of the crime, Valdes had been smoking marijuana along with his accomplice. As part of the original plea deal, therefore, he was told he could not use illegal drugs. Valdez was released from prison in 2010.
According to a ruling made by Florida Judge Teresa Mary Pooler this month, however, convicted murderer Valdes will now be able to use medical marijuana. She approved the man’s application after a Miami physician indicated he qualified for medicinal cannabis use due to battling schizophrenia.
Prosecutors argued that Valdez didn’t need the medicinal cannabis because he was already controlling his condition with prescription pills. “It is all working for him fine. He is stable,” prosecutor Gail Levine said. “He doesn’t need anything else.”
Yehuda Bruck, Valdes’ attorney, argued that the state medical marijuana law allowed his client to vape. “If his doctor prescribes something that has for thousands of years of history, everyone agrees is safe, [he] should be allowed to take it,” he said at his client’s hearing.
Pooler signed off, stating, “The doctor is prescribing this and I’m not going to go past his doctor, I’m not going to tell his doctor, ‘Listen, you can’t prescribe this stuff.’” The Florida Department of Corrections also recently confirmed that it will not test probationers for marijuana use as long as they have a valid, unexpired medical marijuana card.
“If an offender under supervision provides a valid medical marijuana card issued by the Department of Health, he/she will not be drug tested for marijuana use as long as the medical marijuana card remains active,” the department said. “However, this does not prevent the offender from being drug tested for other illegal narcotics as required in the orders of supervision.”
The first medical marijuana law passed in Florida three years ago, in 2014. Two years later, voters expanded the law ten-fold, allowing cardholders to treat conditions such as HIV and AIDS, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, Crohn’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. Schizophrenia is not specifically outlined as a condition treatable with a card, but the courts are largely leaving the determination whether a condition should or should not require cannabis treatment up to prescribing physicians.
Valdez said, in his case, being able to be a cardholder is definitely helpful. “It keeps me mellow,” he said of the vape. “I really need it for my sleeping. When I’m not taking it, I wasn’t sleeping and I’d wake up in a bad mood. I feel better now.”
Not everyone is onboard with the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, especially for convicted criminals. “Some judges allow it. Some judges almost never allow it,” explained Michigan lawyer David Rudoi. He is representing a serial drunk driver on probation who was prohibited from using cannabis for multiple sclerosis and other ailments. “They’re all over the place.”