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Marijuana Prohibition Harms Americans

Marijuana law reform is critical.

By Tamara NetzelPublished 5 years ago 3 min read
Dolores, 63, a registered nurse, and her husband, Gene, were jailed while awaiting trial for possession of marijuana. She was treating his severe illnesses with cannabis she was growing. Gene suffered a heart attack in jail and his death was contributed by the jail not providing adequate medical treatment in the 7 days the couple spent behind bars.

“On March 18th, 2014 our home in Bates County (Missouri) was raided. We spendt one week in jail. During that time my husband wasn’t given any medications for anything. He had very bad diabetes. He had a silent heart attack in jail and consequently died,” Halbin says. Dolores and her husband, Gene, were married for 40 years. She wears a pendant containing her husband’s ashes.

“Two weeks and 3 days after we spread my husband’s ashes, I went on trial.” Her story went viral. She was contacted by advocates all over the world. “My oldest brother called me from London to ask why Gene and I were on the Front Page of the London paper,” she recalls. There’s a news photo that circulated at that time which will be etched in our memories of Dolores standing at the podium next to her attorney facing the judge that day. Nearly a year after the home raid, Dolores was given 2 years unsupervised probation.

Even though this was the couple’s first and only criminal charge, Dolores’ and her husband were not strangers to marijuana conviction. Their son was in a head on collision in front of their farmhouse in 2003, which led him on a path from prescribed Oxycontin to using Heroin to ease his pain. He safely replaced these with medical marijuana leading to the charge he was sent to prison for 44 months. He was 5 months from release when his father died.

“But our son lived. So we are among the lucky ones,” says Dolores. “He is now President of the Kansas City Oxford houses for drug addicts released from prison.”

Three years after her husband’s death, the board of nursing had accused her of moral turpitude stripping her of her nursing license, putting her in the same class as someone who may steal medication or worse charges.

“This didn’t just happen to Gene and I. Two of our children spent the week setting up a fundraiser for bond. They didn’t sleep. They couldn’t eat. On Saturday night, my son drove to the jail. They brought me into the visiting booth wearing shackles and handcuffed me to the table. My son burst out in tears. I told him to please see if they were giving his Dad insulin, metoprolol, and antibiotics. He had a toe infection. If his blood sugars ran high, he would lose his toes. But they didn’t give my husband medications. He had a silent MI and multiple TIAs and picked up an antibiotic resistant staff in a toe in jail. I had never worn shackles. I look ghastly in Orange. But, I knew this was a death sentence for my husband.”

Dolores and Gene advocated for Missouri’s medical marijuana legislation. “We became ‘Archangels’ as Gene called it, of children with Epilepsy. Archangels go into battle,” Dolores recounts.

“Our Medical Marijuana Bill passed with 70% approval. Come June, our kids with epilepsy and our old guys with glaucoma won’t be criminals anymore.

In the summers, Dolores opens up her home to special needs kids and their siblings to let them spend time with her grandkids as much as they want. “There’s a fishing lake and a spring fed swimming creek. They call me the CFL (Crazy Farm Lady!). The children keep me breathing. They give me a purpose and something to do 'til I get to go back to my husband.”

She had to sell their farmhouse to pay for all that she lost, but was given her nursing license back recently. She still cannot work as a nurse until she is able to pay a few thousand more dollars to ask for expungement.

“I hope to work as a cannabis nurse educator, and offer what knowledge I do have to patients, to families, and to healthcare providers.”

Cruel Consequences: Portraits of Misguided Law is a nonprofit portrait collection spreading awareness of the collateral consequences of marijuana prohibition through telling the human cost of the failed policies of the war on drugs in America. See more at cruelconsequences.org on Facebook, IG, and Twitter.


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