In an unusually contentious ruling (pdf) Monday, California appellate court Judges Paul Haerle and J. Anthony Kline got in each other's faces about whether a judge can order a criminal defendant to stop using medicinal marijuana while on probation when the underlying crime has nothing to do with pot use. Kline says you can't. Haerle says you can, and -- unfortunately for Kline -- Haerle was backed in the 2-1 ruling by Justice James Richman.
The opinion focused on Daryl Moret Jr., who pleaded no contest to possession of a concealed firearm on the condition he abstain from using marijuana, which he claimed a doctor had recommended for chronic migraine headaches.
Solano County Superior Court Judge Peter Foor insisted on the condition because he had doubts that Moret needed pot for medicinal reasons and felt the substance could only lead the 19-year-old -- who had also embezzled $2,000 from a former employer and said he found the stolen gun in some bushes -- to further crimes.
Moret's other choice? Jail.
"After balancing all these considerations, the trial court determined that it would help in 'basically straightening things out' and 'being a productive member of the community' that he abstain from using marijuana while on probation," Haerle wrote. "Thus, the trial court clearly and properly exercised its discretion."
An irked Kline responded by saying the majority opinion "flies in the face of the law," "subordinates the will of the people" and is "legally untenable."
"This court's [ruling]," he wrote, "permits imposition of conditions of probation that are unrelated to the crime of which the defendant was convicted, forbids conduct that is not criminal and requires conduct that has no relationship to the defendant's future criminality. No modern California court has ever done such a thing, which is precedent shattering."
Forbidding Moret's use of marijuana for medicine, he added, doesn't "serve a reformative or rehabilitative purpose."
Kline also had few kind words for the trial court judge's "suspicion" that Moret doesn't suffer from migraine headaches.
"The diagnosis and treatment of medical problems are functions assigned to the medical profession," he wrote, "not criminal court judges."
This article first appeared on Legal Pad: A Cal Law blog.