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Busted CA Medical Marijuana Patient Now Free to Leave Alabama

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #663)
Drug War Issues

A California medical marijuana patient facing up to 10 years in prison in Alabama for possessing five grams of marijuana will now go free. In court proceedings in Anniston Monday, Michael Lapihuska agreed to a plea deal in which he was sentenced to two years of unsupervised probation, with no drug testing. He is now free to leave Alabama, and will most likely do so within a matter of days. (See our earlier feature article on Lapihuska and his travails here.)

Get out of Dixie, Michael! (Lapihuska facing camera, image courtesy Alabamians for Compassionate Care)
An Alabama native, Lapihuska left the Heart of Dixie several years ago after serving 13 months in prison for possessing five grams of marijuana in 2003. Lapihuska, who suffers from depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), headed for greener pastures in California, where he became a card-carrying medical marijuana patient, but came home last December for a holiday visit.

On December 15, 2009, he was stopped by a police officer and accused of hitchhiking as he walked down a road. The officer demanded he be allowed to search Lapihuska, and Lapihuska complied. The search came up with a prescription bottle containing one gram of marijuana. Lapihuska explained that he was a registered California medical marijuana patient and produced a patient ID card.

But Alabama justice doesn't recognize medical marijuana, and Lapihuska was charged with his third marijuana possession offense, this one worth between two and 10 years in state prison. Under Alabama law, a first marijuana offense is a misdemeanor, but a second possession offense is a felony punishable by a year in prison. A third possession offense is a felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison.

Lapihuska's predicament soon won him the support of Alabama drug reform activist Loretta Nall and Alabamians for Compassionate Care, who unleashed a media campaign in the local press to gain support for Lapihuska and to try to shame local prosecutors into reducing the charges.

Lapihuska didn't make it easy. Determined not to once again be caught up in the tender mercies of the Alabama criminal justice system, Lapihuska rejected a a plea deal that would have seen him sentenced to probation, but also subject to drug testing. He told the Chronicle he would fail such a test because he continues to use marijuana to treat his symptoms.

At the Monday court hearing, prosecutors lowered the felony marijuana count to a misdemeanor and allowed Lapihuska to plead guilty to that count and an original misdemeanor possession count. Lapihuska must pay a $250 fine on each count, but that is effectively it.

"We beat them down," said Loretta Nall, Lapihuska's most effective and energetic backer. "They didn't want the media attention. They just wanted him out of there. The judge even asked if he was really going back to California."

Nall added that Lapihuska was going to get out of Alabama if she had to buy his plane ticket herself.

Even in Alabama, a little activism can go a long way. What looked like an obscene 10-year prison sentence has now been transformed into a token conviction, a token fine, and an invitation to go home.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


roberta (not verified)

wow im glad they lowered the charge. they should have dismissed the whole charge, your not gonna charge a diabetic for using insuline. i realize weed its not legal, but it was prescribed. thank you Loretta Nall. i give you full props, for your intelligents. weed for depression,that is alot better then the pills they give people, which have side effects like suicide. weed side effects sleepy or hungry.  thank you

Tue, 12/14/2010 - 7:03am Permalink
cannaken (not verified)

In reply to by roberta (not verified)

I am also a vet and a medical cannabis patient in Ca. My friend Jody and I (Ken) are facing felony charges in Az. We were pulled over and arrested this past Feb. while traveling  back from Ks. after attending my 13 yr old daughters birthday party. We had some meds. and all our documentation as patients. We have a trial coming up on Feb. 2, 2011 in Holbrook, Az. They are offering us a plea deal of 1 felony charge of Trans w/ intent to sell, which we both have rejected. They started out w/ 4 felony charges, all we had was personal meds. both perscription and mmj. We are also looking for support. This not only affects us but there are allot of us out there that this is happening to! I am VP of The Human Solution, an education/support group for those in trouble with law enforcement. This is a human rights issue that has devistating results for those caught up in the so called "drug war". We are patients who have chosen a herbal alternative to traditional medicine. It works. This is 2010 and we the people know the truth. I don't disserve this, Jody does not disserve this, nobody disserves to go through this for medical choices, period!! It is a herb that happens to have medicinal value, no more no less. I am 51 yrs. old and have 3 children. The legal system is the threat, not this herb. With our freedoms diminishing we the people must stand up and demand to be counted for what we know and believe. Please support anyway you can, this is about all of us regardless of which state we are in. Pain, diseases and suffering have no borders.

Thu, 12/16/2010 - 3:57pm Permalink
aksdfj (not verified)

In reply to by cannaken (not verified)

I was wondering how the police there pulled you over what was there reasoning? what was your bond? how did everything work out in the end? My husband is in Jail in Holbrook and they are rail roading him I'm sure it's cause hes black. he had alot on him with no card. He feels as though he should not have been stopped in the first place, the officer said first that he was going 78 in a 75 then changed and said he was falling a truck to close. I was just wondering how your case turned out?

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 10:16pm Permalink
old vet (not verified)

but how much longer will all the other sick and dying be subject to terriorism  muggings and murder by police seeking to profit from prohibition .just how much longer will these despicable proffiters in human misery be allowed .to war against thier fellow american citzens.good on you lorettia

Thu, 12/16/2010 - 1:33pm Permalink
Alabama Resident (not verified)

 GOOD    It has taken a lot of work,but we made it happen. This is just the beginning. We need more people to get  involved then we will make it happen for ALL of Alabama.

Thu, 12/16/2010 - 9:12pm Permalink
AnonymousUSMC (not verified)

This man IS NOT A MILITARY VETERAN. He has PTSD from being sexually abused as a child.

DO NOT ASSUME because it says PTSD.

He openly broke a law he left the state for, to go to CA, and came back to break it?  IDIOT alert.


Sat, 03/30/2013 - 9:39pm Permalink
sherry veals (not verified)

Anonymous first of I am a personal friend of Michael L and u can shove it Il your ass and keep ur bs to your self
Wed, 05/14/2014 - 12:40am Permalink

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