Marijuana and Cannabis News

California Medical Marijuana User Free After Alabama Plea Deal
By Steve Elliott ~alapoet~ in Medical, News
Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 1:43 pm
Lapihuska and Elliott Oct 2010.jpg
Photo: Reality Catcher
Michael Lapihuska (left) being interviewed by Toke of the Town editor Steve Elliott, Birmingham, Alabama, October 9, 2010
A former Alabama resident who was busted for pot while back home for the holidays last December -- and who is a legal medical marijuana patient in California -- will finally be able to return home after signing a plea deal Monday for 13 months' unsupervised probation.

"I really don't even feel like it's over yet," said Michael Lapihuska, who was arrested in Anniston, Alabama in December 2009 for the medical marijuana authorized by his doctor. "I don't -- maybe after I get back to California," he said, reports Laura Camper at The Anniston Star.

Monday's plea deal lowered the felony marijuana charge to a misdemeanor, and allowed Lapihuska to plead guilty to that count and an original misdemeanor possession charge, reports the Mobile Press Register.

He will receive 13 months' unsupervised probation, does not have to be subject to drug testing, and must pay a $250 on each of the two counts, reports Phillip Smith at StoptheDrugWar.org.

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Photo: Ron Crumpton
Michael Lapihuska in his Alabamians for Compassionate Care t-shirt
​Lapihuska was arrested on marijuana charges after being detained by a police officer for allegedly hitchhiking in Anniston. For the past year, he has been in Alabama waiting for his case to go to trial.

With no access to medical marijuana, Lapihuska, who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and major depression, said he is now suffering a relapse of the symptoms he had  been able to control with doctor-recommended cannabis.

And while he is eager to go back to California where he can legally access medical marijuana in a safe environment, Lapihuska feels as if he compromised by accepting the plea deal.

"I feel like I should have fought even more," he said. "The reason why I took the deal is because they said it was the best deal that I was going to get. I do agree that I broke the law, like I said before. But this law is so wrong to me."

Marijuana activist Loretta Nall, executive director of Alabamians for Compassionate Care, said she sees the deal as a victory. Since Lapihuska had served time in jail for drug charges before he moved in California (he served 13 months in an Alabama prison for possessing marijuana in 2003), he could have gotten 10 years in prison.

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Photo: Stop The Drug War
Loretta Nall, Alabamians for Compassionate Care: "I never again want to hear that political advocacy and things like letter writing and showing up with someone for court don't have an effect"
​"I'm ecstatic," Nall said. "I do see it as a victory for our political advocacy around Michael... A complete victory would have been, they would have thrown the case out, but this is as close to that as we're going to get."

"They wanted us out of the newspapers and to stop harassing them," Nall told Toke of the Town. "And maybe some of them retain enough humanity that they knew what they were doing was wrong, and did the only thing they could."

"He will come to realize in time just how big a victory it is," Nall told us.

"I never again want to hear that political advocacy and things like letter writing and showing up with someone for court don't have an effect," Nall wrote on her blog.

Lapihuska said he still believes that if he had gotten in front of a jury, he could have convinced people that the law is unjust and maybe helped people in the Alabama who could benefit from legal medical marijuana.

Still, he said he's eager to get back home to California after a year of waiting.

"I compromised and they compromised, and I guess that's fine," Lapihuska said.

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