Disabled veteran Sean Worsley granted parole for marijuana charges

Published Oct 26, 2020 12:00 p.m. ET
iStock / Lumppini

My faith in “The Most High” were the words spoken by the wife of Sean Worsley, a disabled Black Veteran who spent eight months in jail for possession of a legally prescribed prescription, medical cannabis. Sean Worsley is a medical marijuana patient who also is a receiver of the Purple Heart for his service in the Iraq War. He returned to his country with chronic PTSD and other injuries.

How did the country honour this veteran?

Sean Worsley had in his possession a medical marijuana card. However, the card had expired. While travelling with his wife to visit relatives in North Carolina, he stopped for gas in Gordo, Alabama. Here the Worsley’s were confronted by a police officer who claimed they were playing their music too loud in violation of a noise ordinance. The officer asked and was granted permission to search their vehicle. Cannabis was found in the car, which Sean Worsley claimed was legally prescribed to him.

Medical cannabis is now legal in most states in the U.S., but sadly for Sean Worsley, it's not in the one he was driving in when he was stopped by the police. The officer could not charge Sean with a trafficking charge due to the car's low amount of legal cannabis, but he did, however, charge him with possession of cannabis for other than personal use. This charge is a felony in Alabama.

In 2017 Sean Worsley agreed to five-year probation, which included drug treatment as part of the plea, which would avoid a prison term. According to Sean Worsley, the decorated Purple Heart veteran, the VA did not see him as a candidate for their drug program; they claimed he did not have a problem. So, his chance at freedom was denied.

What happened?

According to Alabama's district attorney Sean Worsley was dismissed from the VA for failing to comply with the program. He was to appear in court in Pickens County, but he did not appear. Worsley claimed that he did not know about the court date, but and the court still charged him with failure to appear, resulting in his probation being revoked. He was officially declared a fugitive from justice.

Sean was arrested in Arizona for the possession of cannabis and having an expired medical marijuana card. Alabama requested that he be extradited to Pickens County. The disabled Purple Heart veteran who lives daily with PTSD was jailed and sentenced to serve the full five years in prison. COVID-19 and overcrowding in the jail made it so that Sean Worsley to spent only five months in the Pickens County Jail.

Past discretions

Sean Worsley has spent the last three months in the ageing Draper Correctional Facility. ADOC has been home to Sean Worsley, where he was denied Community Corrections due to a non-violent felony record in 2011, combined with the Alabama offence. Marijuana advocates, civil libertarians, and veteran advocates were astounded at the treatment this veteran received from the Alabama court system.

Thank-you

Sean Worsly's attempt for parole was supported by the service provider, a coalition of advocates, including a retired federal magistrate, John Carroll. He specializes in treating veterans with PTSD and has offered his services to Sean pro bono for his release. Sean has already been offered a job, and the Dannon Project will help to guide him through re-entering the workforce and the transitions from jail. On-line supporters have raised monies to cover legal costs and his wife's financial burden of moving to Birmingham.

According to Chey Lindsey Garrigan, executive director of the Cannabis Industry Association, compassion was shown by the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. The understanding shown to Sean Worsley is a commendable act that deserves acknowledgment, even if it did take far too long. The parole of Sean Worsley is a celebration that only serves to show the legislative chambers' duty to right the wrongs of our criminal justice system and to focus on crimes that endanger community safety.

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