Veteran sentenced to prison for medical cannabis

Karen Berger, PharmD, Medical Writer 

If you follow MyCureAll, you know that we support the use of medical cannabis for a variety of conditions. You also know that we support our veterans who selflessly and bravely serve our country. So it was surprising and upsetting to come across a news story shared among the MyCureAll team which was recently published in Alabama Political Reporter, titled “Black disabled veteran sentenced to spend 60 months in prison for medical marijuana.”

The above-mentioned title is shocking and upsetting – 5 years of no freedom for someone who fought for our freedom, just for using medical cannabis? 

Here is the not-so-short story: Sean Worsley, a disabled veteran, and his wife, Eboni, were arrested in August 2016 while driving from Mississippi to North Carolina, stopping along the way for gas in Alabama. Sean, age 33, was wounded in Iraq – he has a traumatic brain injury and PTSD. Sean uses medical marijuana for nightmares, short-term memory issues, depression, and back pain. He legally purchased medical cannabis in Arizona. A police officer approached the couple at the gas station, saying their music was too loud, and asked to search their vehicle. 

They agreed; however, cannabis is illegal in Alabama, even if purchased legally in another state. When the officer said he smelled marijuana, Worsley explained his situation, telling the officer he had a medical marijuana card. Besides the marijuana, the officer found alcohol, and prescription pain medications for Eboni, and both Sean and Eboni were arrested. Because the pain pills were not in the original bottle, the officer declared a felony and charged the couple. They spent six days in jail. 

Once the couple returned to Arizona after some legal difficulties, they had a difficult time maintaining housing, so they moved to Nevada, where they leased a house. 

About a year later, the Alabama judge was revoking bonds on all of his cases, so the Worsleys had to rush back, or lose the bond money and get charged with failing to appear in court. 

Once in court, the Worsleys were separated, despite Eboni explaining that due to Sean’s disability, he required a guardian present. Sean stated to Eboni that he was told she would be charged too if he didn’t sign the agreement, so he signed the plea agreement. 

The agreement? 60 months of probation, drug treatment, and thousands of dollars in fines, fees, and court costs. 

Sean was denied treatment by the VA, and Eboni, a certified nursing assistant, had a job offer that was rescinded, and she also lost her clearance to work with sensitive information. After spending some time sleeping in their car and living with family, the Worsleys were homeless in January of 2019. Sean lost his homeless veterans benefits with the VA because Alabama issued a fugitive warrant for his arrest after he missed a court date. 

Eboni had health issues of her own, and needed heart surgery. After more financial complications, they lost her truck and their home. 

Although Sean’s benefits started up again in August 2019, he didn’t pay the $250 fee to renew his medical marijuana card. In 2020, he was arrested in Arizona for possession of marijuana without a valid medical marijuana card. 

To add to the legal mess, Pickens county demanded Sean be sent back to Alabama and charged him over $4,000 in addition to the almost $4,000 he already still owed in fines, fees, and court costs. 

In late April 2020, Sean was sentenced to 60 months in prison. Due to overcrowding and COVID-19, he has not yet begun his sentence. He is currently in the county jail, waiting to be transported to a prison in Alabama. Sean’s mother hired an attorney to appeal, but the process has just begun. While Eboni is in the hospital for another heart surgery, Sean leaves behind two children, ages 12 and 14. 

“I feel like I’m being thrown away by a country I went and served for,” Sean wrote in a letter to Alabama Appleseed. “I feel like I lost parts of me in Iraq, parts of my spirit and soul that I can’t ever get back.”

State Senator Cam Ward stated that being charged solely for marijuana possession is an anomaly in Alabama, and that possession is a Class D offense, which should require no prison time. However, the arresting officer in Sean’s case charged him with a Class C offense, stating that the marijuana was not for personal use. Ward told Alabama Political Reporter that only 60-70 inmates in Alabama (out of 23,000) are there just for marijuana offenses, and that those 60-70 were arrested for truckloads of marijuana as well as trafficking, not a small amount like Worsley had. 

Chey Garrigan, executive director of advocacy group Alabama Cannabis Industry Association, said they are fighting to change Alabama’s laws so that medical marijuana is legal and travelers don’t have to fear long incarcerations for small amounts of marijuana that would be legal in many other states.

The Alabama Senate has passed medical marijuana bills, but the bills have not yet made it to the House of Representatives for a vote, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We at MyCureAll believe this is completely unjust. No one should ever be sentenced to prison for using medical cannabis. Medical cannabis effectively treats symptoms of so many conditions. It is very useful to veterans for PTSD, as well as pain, anxiety, and many other conditions. It is safer than opioids, which caused 67,000 deaths in 2018, a number that is expected to climb. Jacques Nir, LCSW and CFO of MyCureAll, adds, “Sean Worsley is a disabled veteran with a severe psychiatric diagnosis. He is a man of color who needs care and compassion, not the hard fist of institutionalized racism.” 

MyCureAll not only believes that medical cannabis should be legal, but that insurance should pay for it because of its safety and efficacy. Sign our petition to get medical cannabis covered by insurance. 

A GoFundMe for Sean Worsley can be found here, and a petition can be found here. Take action at last prisoner, where you can donate and submit a letter. 

MyCureAll also offers a wide variety of CBD products, such as CBD oils, topicals, and flowers, for all of your CBD needs. Check out our Shopify store. All of our products are pharmacist-formulated and tested extensively for purity. 

From: Moseley, B. Black disabled veteran sentenced to spend 60 months in prison for medical marijuana. Alabama Political Reporter. July 15, 2020