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Doctor's marijuana note no get-out-of-jail card for convicted armed robber who'd agreed not to light up

The Supreme Judicial Court today upheld a man's conviction for violating a probation violation against the use of marijuana even though he had a note from a doctor that he should be allowed to use medical marijuana.

On April, 17, 2013, Danny Vargas pleaded guilty to holding up a Haverhill convenience store at gunpoint the previous year - in part, he admitted, to buy marijuana.

Vargas, who admitted to toking up on the regular agreed, as part of a sentence that consisted only of three years' probation, to not smoke any marijuana - and to show up for random drug tests. After the judge specifically mentioned marijuana, Vargas replied:

I would just like to say if I am put on probation Your Honor I will comply with everything that is put on me. I will comply with everything and see it through and you will not see me in court again.

On April 24, 2013, Vargas tested positive for marijuana. Repeated tests over the next few months kept showing positive results for marijuana - and in one case cocaine. In May, the court says:

On May 29, 2013, the defendant secured a document from a physician entitled "Physician's Certificate for the Use of Medical Marijuana in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Pursuant To 105 [Code Mass. Regs. §] 725" (certificate).

A court ordered him into treatment. He never showed up. Finally, on Dec. 11, a judge had had enough and canceled his probation and ordered him to serve 2-4 years in state prison on the armed-robbery charge.

On appeal, his lawyer brought up the doctor's note and said that should effectively waive all the positive marijuana tests.

That, however, was one toke over the line, the state's highest court ruled:

The judge was not bound by any such restraint where, prior to acquiring the certificate, the defendant agreed to conditions of probation prohibiting the use of marijuana and failed to secure a modification of that condition based on his later acquired qualifying patient status. Nor was the defendant a qualifying patient entitled to immunity under the act when he violated the conditions of his probation by using marijuana prior to acquiring the certificate.

We conclude also that even if the defendant were entitled to immunity for the medical use of marijuana, the judge could properly sentence the defendant for violations independent of the use of marijuana. ...

Bypassing the implications of this nonimmunized use of marijuana, the defendant argues that the issuance of the certificate prohibits any punishment for the medical use of marijuana at any time thereafter. We reject this argument, as it overlooks the defendant's waiver of his right to use marijuana during the plea hearing and the inherent authority of the court to impose a prison sentence for a violation of that condition.

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