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Parolee sues Minnesota Department of Corrections for barring him from using medical marijuana

Darrell Schmidt doesn't want to go to jail for using his prescription.

Darrell Schmidt doesn't want to go to jail for using his prescription. Associated Press

By the time Darrell Schmidt of Chaska was released on parole back in 2017, he’d been diagnosed with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia, and anxiety.

Schmidt, who had been convicted of illegally keeping a shotgun in his Quonset hut in rural Stewart, Minnesota in 2013, had been prescribed some meds to help him handle his symptoms sometime between his conviction and his release. But they waged war on his digestive system -- even caused intestinal bleeding. So, rather than mess up his body with more pills, his physician advised he switch to medical marijuana instead.

According to a complaint filed in Carver County District Court in mid-January, Schmidt told all this to his parole officer, Jason Pauly, and got a less-than-sympathetic response.

“...Pauly then threatened Schmidt that if he took his prescribed medical marijuana and it showed up on his court-ordered random drug tests, Schmidt would be revoked from his supervised release and placed back in prison.”

Schmidt did not want to go back to prison, so instead, he simply went unmedicated -- an ordeal that the complaint says caused him to lose 50 pounds from stress and sleepless nights.

Schmidt’s lawyers say there was no reason for Pauly to threaten him for using medical marijuana -- that he’s registered with the state’s medical marijuana program. If it had been “any other medication,” attorney Patrick Casey told KEYC News -- even opioids -- this wouldn’t have been a problem.

“Because we’re talking about marijuana, the Department of Corrections is not willing to change their policy and somebody has to do something about [it,]” he said.

So, Schmidt, with the help of the Knutson + Casey law firm, is suing the Minnesota Department of Corrections for permission to use his meds on probation, plus attorney fees. (The Department of Corrections responded to interview requests.)

Casey's pretty confident he and his client have this one well in hand.

"I feel like the statute is clear," he says. The state, he says, shouldn't be interfering with what should be between a man and his doctor, even if he is on parole -- especially if it keeps him from taking care of his mental health and becoming a more stable, adjusted person. 

The case could have implications beyond Schmidt's marijuana use. The lawsuit is also poised to set a precedent: If Schmidt and Casey get everything they want, it will mean that the Department of Corrections can no longer bar parolees from using medical marijuana -- as long as they’re registered and comply with routine drug screenings for THC, the psychoactive substance found in weed.

There will be a motion hearing on March 26.