Not So Fast: Veteran with PTSD Fighting Harsh Sentence for Growing His Own Medicine

Photo by Nico Escondido

For many, the latest election was a bittersweet moment. Eight out of nine of the state ballot measures passed in favor of marijuana initiatives, putting about one-fifth of the population in a state that has legalized recreational marijuana, and more than half of the country living in a state that has some form of a medical marijuana law.

The joy of those victories was put to a halt for many with the simultaneous election of Donald Trump as president. Even if you voted for Trump, your excitement was probably curtailed at the announcement of his choice for attorney general, a man who once said he thought the KKK was “OK until I found out they smoked pot.” This man, Jeff Sessions, should strike fear into the heart of every cannabis user in the United States of America, and possibly beyond.

Yes, we achieved some great victories across the nation.

Massachusetts’ recreational law became official over 100 years after the state criminalized it. Surely a great success! Nevada, a hedonist’s playground, did the same in the face of a billionaire opponent. Awesome, I can’t wait to hit a dispensary on the strip and then engorge myself at a buffet. It will be glorious. And of course, California, one of the biggest economies in the world, also legalized cannabis for recreational use. Many call legalization in California the tipping point in the movement. With so many people and so much money in the industry, many say that cannabis is unstoppable; there’s no going back now.

Maybe they are right. The momentum does seem too strong to stop us. But that doesn’t mean people like Sessions won’t try. Arrests for marijuana will continue, and unreasonable amounts of jail time will be handed out for relatively minor marijuana offenses. It happened under Bush, it is happening under Obama and will continue under Trump. If the people stay silent or are made complacent by these victories, Sessions will likely put many more behind bars.

There are already too many people that have extended jail time just for marijuana charges.

Craig Cesal was sentenced to life in jail without parole on conspiracy charges (not for actually dealing pot). Noah Kleiman is serving at least 15 years for operating dispensaries around Los Angeles. Aaron Sandusky was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for operating a legal dispensary in California. This list could go on for pages, while another name could be added to the roster soon if the judicial system in Oklahoma has its way.

Kris Lewandowski is a 10-year marine combat veteran who saw tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and off the coast of Somalia. Ten years of fighting for the United States and our freedoms gave Kris a bad back and a bad case of PTSD. His back pain and the opiates that the VA prescribed him were so debilitating that the military deemed him 100 percent disabled. Kris said that “two plus years of pharmaceuticals” left him with a “full-fledged opiate addiction,” while still, “nothing seemed to help.”

On a family-trip to California, Kris had run out of his prescription pain medication, and within the throes of an opiate withdrawal, a family friend insisted Kris try some medical marijuana. To Kris’s amazement, it worked and quickly helped him lessen his prescribed pain medication. At that point, he knew he had to find access to cannabis in Oklahoma, where he lived. He did, but when his “dealer” moved out of state he had to make other arrangements.

His choices were to either buy schwaggy brick-weed from the remaining connects around town or try to grow his own. Kris chose the latter.

Having no experience growing weed, he started out where many others have before him, by reading Jorge Cervantes’ grow tips. Fast-forward a few months to the cops being called to his home. While searching his house, they found the five plants that Kris was growing.

Oklahoma doesn’t look too kindly upon growing marijuana. At one point, the judge threatened to arrest his wife for cultivation if he did not cooperate and also told him that he could be facing life in prison for cultivation of a controlled substance. Keeping this in mind, Kris accepted a blind plea deal that would have put him in jail for five years for five plants.

On October 19, 2016, Kris was able to withdraw this plea deal in order to fight the case at trial.

The injustice of the amount of time for so few plants, combined with the thought of not be able to see his kids grow up for the next five years, made the plea deal untenable. In retaliation for withdrawing the plea, the presiding judge is now adding two additional charges that could significantly increase his jail time. Kris, like the inmates mentioned above, is being unduly punished for exercising his right to stand-up to the system.

Come January, Kris will have his day in court.

The Human Solution International and The Weed for Warriors Project are helping him and his family prepare for the day in question. If you think a 10-year Marine veteran, who risked his life on multiple tours to secure the freedom of our nation and the world, a man who sacrificed his body, his mind and his family to serve us, if you think he deserves any amount of jail time for trying to ease his pains then sit back and enjoy the victories.

But if you don’t, if you think he has the right to grow his own medicine, a right to be with his family, then maybe it’s time to do something.

By now the haze should have cleared from any post-election victory smoke-outs. Don’t forget about those still fighting the war to end prohibition. Remember those who are not lucky enough to be able to walk to a dispensary and by some top-shelf, off the shelf.

There are still people that need this as a medicine who are forced into the underground, forced to buy off the street or grow in their closet with neighbors who aren’t so understanding, neighbors who might very well applaud what Jeff Sessions said. Don’t let the victories lull you into complacency. Stay vigilant and support your freedom fighters, like Kris.

Donate money, donate time; write a letter to your congressman, to an inmate, to Jeff Sessions; call them. Show up to court for support, whether it is in Oklahoma or California or Texas. Do something, be active but never ever rest on your laurels, because no one deserves to go to jail for a plant.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.

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