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In some states, medical marijuana cards can't prevent arrests

Photo: Sinclair Broadcast Group

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) A handful of states voted on marijuana initiatives on Nov.6 during the midterm election. In more than half the country, medical marijuana is already legal. However, patients can still be arrested and charged, even though a doctor recommended its use in some of those states.

On Halloween night 2017 Glenn Keeling and his wife Peggysue Kimmel got more than a scare. There was a knock on the door, and when they went to open it, a drug task force was on their doorstep with a warrant. Keeling said roughly 11 cops responded to the warrant.

Keeling has Crohn's disease, and his spouse has multiple sclerosis. They were using medical marijuana. When they tried to show their medical marijuana cards, issued by an Ohio doctor, to police, it didn't matter.

"He says "well there's no medical program in Ohio. I don't care about your card,” Keeling said.

Now, both are facing a judge on more than a dozen drug charges which could mean decades in prison.

"I would not ever break the law on purpose of any kind," Kimmel remarked.

On an interstate near Toledo, Ohio in February. Four people from Cincinnati faced a similar fate after a traffic stop that led to the discovery of a pounds of medical marijuana. All passengers in the car were arrested, even though the driver had a medical marijuana card. Some are facing serious penalties and up to 33 years in prison.

The District of Columbia and 31 states have legalized medical marijuana. In a handful of states, the medical marijuana programs are not yet officially up-and-running. Until they are, medical marijuana remains illegal, even if patients unaware.

Chris Lindsey, an attorney with the Marijuana Policy Project, said most patients have no idea that medical marijuana in states that legalized it was still illegal when they were arrested.

Lindsey believes the cards then give people a false sense of security.

Lawmakers and doctors are telling patients they're protected by something called an "affirmative defense," a legal concept that you can't be charged for a crime under an old law if a new law makes it legal. There are no guarantees an affirmative defense will work for everyone.

"It’s not up to law enforcement to pick the winners and losers,” Lindsey said.

Even though attorneys argue that patients "are" protected by affirmative defense, all of them continue to face criminal drug charges in court.

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