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A Mankato law firm is part of a lawsuit over whether former prison inmates should be allowed to use medical marijuana while they are on parole.

Knutson and Casey is representing a man from the Hutchinson area in a lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Corrections and the man's probation officer.

The suit claims the state prison system is violating Minnesota's medical marijuana law by not permitting Darrell Schmidt to take his prescribed marijuana.

The Department of Corrections contends all forms of marijuana are still illegal under federal law. The state agency is asking for the case to be dismissed.

Schmidt is on parole through 2035 for a 2010 criminal sexual conduct conviction. No drug use is one of the conditions of his probation.

A doctor prescribed medical marijuana to Schmidt last year to treat anxiety, depression, PTSD and insomnia, according to the lawsuit. He first tried an anti-depressant medication, but it reportedly caused intestinal bleeding.

Schmidt reportedly has not taken the prescribed marijuana because his probation officer told him he would be sent back to prison.

The lawsuit, filed in Carver County where Schmidt is on parole, claims the Department of Corrections is violating Schmidt's rights under the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Therapeutic Research Act. The law permits prescriptions for marijuana in pill or liquid form to treat 13 medical conditions.

“It is our position that the State of Minnesota and the Department of Corrections should not be invading the doctor-patient relationship,” attorney Patrick Casey said in a statement.

The lawsuit asks a civil court judge to order the department to allow all parolees to take marijuana if it is prescribed to them, or for the judge to grant a temporary restraining order requiring the Department of Corrections permit Schmidt to take his prescription.

The Department of Corrections, which is being represented by the Minnesota Attorney General's Office, is asking the judge to dismiss the case. The short written request contends the “complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” The judge will hear arguments on the request in March.

DOC spokeswoman Sarah Fitzgerald said no one from the department can talk about the Schmidt case because it does not comment on pending litigation.

But she provided a copy of a department policy that bans parolee medical marijuana use for two reasons: There is no way to distinguish between prescribed and illicit marijuana use through current drug-screening methods. And while medical marijuana is permitted in Minnesota, it is a violation of federal law and parolees are required to follow all state and federal laws.

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