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United States v. Schostag

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

July 13, 2018

United States of America Plaintiff - Appellee
v.
John Edward Schostag Defendant-Appellant

          Submitted: May 15, 2018

          Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Minnesota - St. Paul

          Before SHEPHERD, MELLOY, and GRASZ, Circuit Judges.

          MELLOY, Circuit Judge.

         John Edward Schostag appeals the district court's[1] modification of his terms of his supervised release to include a standard condition explicitly prohibiting the use of medical marijuana. We affirm.

         In December 2008, Schostag pleaded guilty to felon in possession of a firearm and attempted possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute. He was sentenced to 120 months' imprisonment and 5 years' supervised release. Schostag began serving his supervised release in October 2015.

         The terms of Schostag's supervised release require him to follow certain court-imposed conditions, including statutorily mandated conditions, standard conditions imposed across the district, and special conditions specifically tailored to his circumstances. The mandatory conditions require Schostag to "not commit another federal, state or local crime," to "not unlawfully possess a controlled substance," and to "refrain from any unlawful use of a controlled substance." Standard Condition 7 states Schostag "shall not purchase, possess, use, distribute, or administer any controlled substance or paraphernalia related to any controlled substances, except as prescribed by a physician." Special Condition (a) states he "shall not commit any crimes, federal, state, or local." And, Special Condition (f) states he "shall take any prescribed medications as directed by his medical provider."

         In 2014, the state of Minnesota began allowing physicians to prescribe certain forms of medical marijuana. See Minn. Stat. §§ 152.22-37. In April 2017, Schostag notified his probation officer that his physician prescribed him medical marijuana for chronic pain. Specifically, Schostag was prescribed vaporized oil containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The probation officer informed Schostag his use of marijuana-even if prescribed-was prohibited under federal law and in violation of his supervised release. In May 2017, Schostag tested positive for marijuana. The probation officer filed a Petition on Supervised Release and a Violation Report.

         At a revocation hearing, Schostag admitted to using marijuana. However, Schostag argued he was following the orders of his physician, in compliance with Standard Condition 7 and Special Condition (f) of his supervised release. To clarify any confusion, the district court modified the terms of Schostag's supervised release to include the following special condition:

[t]he defendant shall not purchase, possess, use, distribute or administer marijuana or obtain or possess a medical marijuana card or prescription. This condition supersedes standard condition number 7 with respect to marijuana only.

         Before applying the modification, the district court discussed the inherent challenges in pain management, noting "so many of the pain medications are highly narcotic and highly addictive." Accordingly, the court delayed imposing the modification for two weeks to allow Schostag to find alternative means to address his chronic pain and did not find Schostag in violation of his supervised release.

         I. Standard of Review

         Generally, "[d]istrict courts enjoy broad discretion in the imposition or modification of conditions for terms of supervised release, and we review only for abuse of discretion." United States v. Davies, 380 F.3d 329, 332 (8th Cir. 2004); see also United States v. Nixon, 839 F.3d 885, 887 (9th Cir. 2016) (per curiam) (reviewing a district court's probationary condition prohibiting possession or use of medical marijuana for abuse of discretion). However, we ...


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