The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles on Wednesday released Sean Worsley, the disabled, Black, veteran who had been jailed for eight months for possessing legally-obtained medical cannabis, according to the Alabama Political Reporter.
Worsley served in the Iraq War and received a Purple Heart but was also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and declared 100 percent disabled by the Department of Veterans Affairs. He had received a medical cannabis recommendation for PTSD from his home state of Arizona.
In a statement, his wife Eboni said the couple is “grateful to be able to pick up the pieces and begin rebuilding” their lives. She expressed gratitude toward the Parole Board “for showing the public the heart of the warm welcoming spirit of the people” she’s met since moving to the state.
“My faith in THE MOST HIGH has been further solidified in the demonstration of the law functioning in Alabama to help and not harm individuals via the parole board.” – Eboni Worsley, in a statement, via the Political Reporter
Chey Lindsey Garrigan, executive director of the Alabama Cannabis Industry Association, called the “compassion” shown by the board “a commendable act that should be acknowledged.”
Worsley was arrested in 2016 for cannabis possession in Gordo after an officer approached he and his wife while they were getting gas claiming their music was too loud. Eboni complied but the officer claimed he smelled cannabis, searched the car, and found medical cannabis obtained through New Mexico’s program.
In 2017, as part of a plea deal, Worsley agreed to five years of probation, including drug treatment, but claims that the VA would not let him access their drug treatment program because he doesn’t have a drug problem.
The district attorney’s office in Alabama said Worsley was kicked out of the VA program for failure to comply and ordered him to appear in Pickens County court. Worsley claims that he did not know about the court date and was subsequently charged with failure to appear, which led to his probation to be revoked and being declared a fugitive from justice.
Worsley was then arrested in Arizona for possession of cannabis with an expired medical cannabis ID card and extradited to Alabama where, earlier this month, a judge upheld his five-year prison sentence.
Democratic State Rep. Neil Rafferty, a post-9/11 veteran who advocated for Worsley’s release, said news of his parole “is welcomed and to be celebrated.”
“The case of Sean Worsley deals with a convergence of several issues. It deals with Alabama’s harmful marijuana laws, particularly concerning medical marijuana,” Rafferty told the Political Reporter. “It deals with our country’s misunderstanding and treatment of veterans returning home and transitioning to civilian life. And it deals with excessive policing – that put suspicion on a man doing nothing more than listening to the radio and playing air guitar to his wife.”
Advocates had been calling for Worsley’s release since last summer.
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