ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — It’s been almost ten years since medical marijuana was approved in New York, but not everyone is able to use the drug even when it’s prescribed to them. 

Attorney Julie Garcia said North Country patients with approved medical marijuana prescriptions are being denied the drug because they are on probation. She said the problem is that when people are denied medical marijuana they are more likely to use opioids. 

“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 with Warren County on behalf of Justin Dunning, who was charged with criminal mischief in the third degree and sentenced to a year of probation. Dunning had recently back surgery and needed the prescription for chronic pain. But his sentence prohibited the use or possession of marijuana, “whether or not, it is prescribed for medical purposes.”

“He did not wanna take opioids, even though he could have taken them while he was on probation,” Garcia said. “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.”

A judge in Warren County judge denied Dunning the medicine. But 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.