Man Busted In Alabama For Bringing Medical Pot From California


Photo: Michael Lapihuska
In happier days: Michael Lapihuska was arrested for taking his doctor-recommended medical marijuana on a trip back home to Alabama

​A former Alabama resident is facing a jail sentence for bringing his doctor-recommended medical marijuana with him from California to Alabama when he came home for the holidays last December.

Michael Lapihuska, a former resident of Anniston, Ala., was arrested December 15, 2009, when a police officer stopped him for hitchhiking, reports Laura Camper at The Anniston Star. The cop searched him, found a prescription bottle of marijuana in his pocket, and asked Lapihuska to take it out.
When the man complied, he was arrested for marijuana possession despite the doctor’s recommendation he presented to the officer.

“I understand that I broke the law, but the law was wrong,” Lapihuska said. “If I would have had OxyContin or Xanas, morphine, anything like that, and walking down the street, the police would have just gave me my prescriptions back and let me walk.”
One difference between cannabis and those prescription drugs, of course, is the federal Schedule I classification of marijuana, which means it is regarded by the federal government (and that of 36 states) as having no medical value.
Although pot remains illegal under federal law, 14 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized its use. That includes California, where Lapihuska’s doctor recommended medical cannabis for him.
A few states, including Maine, Michigan, Montana and Rhode Island, also have reciprocity, allowing medical marijuana patients from other states to continue their medication in the state as long as they have legal authorization from a doctor.

Photo: Samford U.
Professor Leonard J. Nelson III: “You can’t prescribe marijuana under federal law”

​”You can’t prescribe (marijuana) under federal law,” said Leonard Nelson, a professor at Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. “I’m not familiar with any precedents that would look at whether a state has the right to arrest somebody for bringing in what would be an illegal (drug) in their state but is nonetheless under a prescription. I would assume the answer would be yeah, they could do it.”
Alabama has had legislation introduced to legalize medical marijuana for the last six years, and the bill made it out of committee for the first time in this year’s legislative session. The bill, called The Michael Phillips Compassionate Care Act, includes reciprocity for medical marijuana patients from other states.
Loretta Nall, executive director of Alabamians for Compassionate Care, supports the bill because she firmly believes in the medical benefits of marijuana.
“We have too many people in Alabama prisons already for nonviolent drug offenses,” Nall said. “We don’t need to be wasting our scarce law enforcement dollars and tax dollars to lock up people that are sick that benefit from the use of this plant.”

Stop The Drug War
Loretta Nall, Alabamians for Compassionate Care: “We don’t need to be wasting our scarce law enforcement dollars and tax dollars to lock up people that are sick that benefit from the use of this plant.”

​In 2009, the American Medical Association urged the federal government to change marijuana’s classification to facilitate study of its medical and other uses.
Lapihuska is hoping his experience will help change the marijuana laws in Alabama to allow for medical use of the herb.
He has already been to prison in Alabama for marijuana. Before he moved to California in 2009, Lapihuska was arrested and imprisoned for possessing only 5 grams of cannabis.
When he traveled to the Golden State to visit friends, he got his first legal doctor’s recommendation for marijuana while he was there. Lapihuska said cannabis freed him from the five prescribed drugs he was already taking for major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
It was life-changing, he said.
“They had me on five medications at one time, antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, and tried to convince me that this was the answer,” Lapihuska said. “It wasn’t the answer.”
Lapihuska is out on bond and awaiting trial.