Veteran Faces Life for Cannabis, Murderer Does Not

Veteran Faces Life for Cannabis, Murderer Does Not

The Lawton, Oklahoma courtroom of Judge Emmitt Tayloe had standing room only on October 19, 2016. Before hearing the plea reversal request from Marine veteran, Kris Lewandowski, Judge Tayloe and prosecutor Jordan Cabelka handled the sentencing of a man in an orange jump suit. A man who admitted to violently murdering his unarmed, innocent best friend, and then dragging his body to a shed in the backyard and setting it on fire.

The victim’s mother and grandmother sat in the front row and listened as both the Judge and prosecutor talked to the man in the orange jumpsuit with respect, referencing him as “sir” and treating him with regard. The women then had their chance to address the defendant who murdered their only son, and grandson. The women’s statements told of how their family had welcomed the man into their home, had him for Christmas, how a young boy who thought he was a friend to his father, would now grow up with only memories of a vicious and hideous betrayal, ending in the violent murder of his dad. A memory that would haunt he and the family forever, a deed that took a man’s life and destroyed their family.

The defendant showed no remorse, and the process went quickly. The Judge even wished him well after sentencing him not to life, not to death, but to a sentence less severe than the one the court and prosecutor are pursuing for Kristoffer John Lewandowski, the next defendant to be heard that day. Kris is an honorably discharged combat veteran who is facing life in prison for growing six marijuana plants to treat his PTSD.

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The victim’s family then left the courtroom, followed by three family members of the convicted murderer.

Kris, in his dress shirt and pants, a three combat tour, honorably discharged Marine veteran was treated with no regard that October day. He was talked to with disdain, and even disrespect at times. Unlike the convicted murderer in the orange jump suit before him, there was no respectful “sir” directed at Mr. Lewandowski, only promises that he wouldn’t “take up any more of the Court’s time” and prosecutor statements that mocked the Marine and his confirmed medical condition. Scathing judgements in court about Kris wearing a “Cheech and Chong t-shirt” to his kid’s school, and statements meant to attack his personal character and moral integrity beat the veteran down publicly, and on record.

After graduating high school in Colorado, Kris Lewandowski wanted to serve his community as a police officer. He attended and graduated from the Law Enforcement Academy at Red Rocks Community College in 2003. His path was set it seemed , but 9/11 lingered in his mind and changed that decision. Like so many, after the attack on his home soil, Kris wanted to serve not just his community, but his country, so he decided to join the United States Marines Corps in 2005. His first tour of duty shortly after was in Iraq.

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When he returned to the states, he met his future wife, Whitney. They married in 2010, and Kris would go on to serve two more tours overseas with the Corps. After injuries to his shoulder, back, and progressing PTSD that seemed to only worsen with prescribed pharmaceuticals, Kris was medically retired and honorably discharged. The discharge deepened his already overwhelming addiction to the legal opioids that he was being prescribed, “The pills were making things worse, it wasn’t making it better. I was sad, I was mad, and the PTSD and pain were still there,” said Lewandowski, “I knew I needed to change something, especially after our first child was born. The PTSD and varying pharmaceuticals to treat it were stealing my soul. Stress was intolerable, life wasn’t worth living, I was fighting for my life, I wanted to die, and taking the pills the doctors gave me didn’t stop that feeling, they made it worse.”

Lewandowski was transferred to Ft. Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma where he was an instructor on base as he awaited medical retirement processing. He had began weaning himself off of the opioids and began researching all natural options to treat his PTSD, including meditation, change in diet, and even medical marijuana. They took to the internet, library and friends, fellow veterans and asked about potential treatments for veterans with PTSD, anything, including cannabis. The overwhelming positive feedback from other veterans, the scientific research that supports its effectiveness and the desperation from the opioid withdrawal led Kris to grow his own medical marijuana. Just enough to make his own personal medicine, six plants. It was the first time he had ever tried cultivating his own medicine.

“I was desperate. I knew I was going to lose my wife, my kids, my marriage, and I truly believed I was going to lose my life. I still believe it. If I don’t have my medicine, I will endure the levels of PTSD and pain I have before. I can’t go back there,”

said Kris.

“It’s the only effective medicine I have ever had for my combat injury pain and the haunting PTSD. I just don’t understand how veterans who serve this country, could be denied access to a plant if it helps them.”

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A PTSD flair up, no medicine, weaning from opioids and a postpartum Whitney had the couple in heated arguments that led to a domestic disturbance call in June of 2014. Police found the six plants and the pursuit of injustice began against Kris and his family. Whitney was told if she didn’t cooperate and agree with statements that Kris was assaulting her with a kitchen knife (he was making a sandwich when the argument broke out) that she would be charged with cultivation and they would lose custody of their two young boys, Levi and Jaxon. DHS would take the boys and she and Kris would go to jail, or she could say what they told her to.

“Kris has never harmed me, never hurt me, but I didn’t have a choice,” said Whitney, “We absolutely had a screaming match that night. We definitely had an argument and our marriage was in trouble, he was struggling with his PTSD and didn’t have anything that could make it better. I was enduring hormones from having the baby, and certainly emotional, but what the police say happened, never happened. They would have taken my kids if I didn’t agree to what they said.”

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Initial legal counsel for Lewandowski arranged for a plea deal, not knowing that it would greatly impede he and his family’s health and education benefits among others, Kris agreed, becoming a felon rather than a veteran. He quickly regretted his decision.

“It is absolute insanity – this situation. Putting a three tour combat Marine veteran who served his country faithfully, in jail for using a medicine, the only medicine that was effective in treating his severe PTSD. This shows the deep and disturbing problems our country faces, ” said Matthew J. Pappas, a California-based attorney who is assisting Lewandowski along with his Oklahoma attorney, Tom Hurley and Florida-based attorney, Michael Minardi.

With new counsel, clearer understanding of the repercussions for the plea and a patriot’s belief in justice, he respectfully stood before Judge Tayloe and prosecutor Jordan Cabelka, and asked to reverse his plea in the crowded courtroom.

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Kris won that battle on October 19, with the Judge allowing a plea reversal. So, for the moment, he is a veteran and not a felon. But the state took it personally and added the assault with a deadly weapons charge and a firearms charge thrown in because he had an heirloom, replica firearm in the house at the time of the disturbance. The state gave Lewandowski three options or trial. Two included jail time, the other had no jail but wouldn’t allow for him to consume his medicine, even in a legal state.

Kristoffer John Lewandowski is going to trial on May 30, 2017 in Lawton, Oklahoma at the Comanche County Courtroom. “If the state doesn’t do what is right, it is up to the citizens of Oklahoma. It must be the action of the people and the process of the jury trial to bring justice to this travesty and fully acquit Marine veteran, Kris Lewandowski,” said attorney Michael Minardi, “This case highlights the need for better laws and leadership. Jails are meant for rapists, murderers, child molesters, not Marine veterans trying to treat their medical condition with an all natural, non lethal plant that works for them.”

It is clear with this case, and many others, that our system is broken and broken heroes are regarded no higher than vicious predators, once in the broken system, regardless of charge. “Something must change, we hope and pray the change begins in Oklahoma on May 30, 2017 with Kris’s trial,” said Lewandowski’s wife, Whitney, “it’s all we can do to not hold each other and the children and just cry until that day. We are scared to death we will lose him, over a plant. This is America, he fought to defend and protect it and us, and they are going to send my husband to jail for a plant.”

Not if the good people of Oklahoma have something to say about it. “Not Guilty.”
The people of this country overwhelmingly support the medical use of marijuana 4 its citizens. This War on Drugs and War on the people must come to an end. Our veterans who fight for our rights in this country should not be persecuted or prosecuted for using a plant to treat the disease or injury that is caused by their service to this country. Cannabis should be an option for all veterans as a first line of treatment not a last or forbidden resort.

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US Supreme Court Dismisses Case Threatening Colorado Marijuana Laws

US Supreme Court Dismisses Case Threatening Colorado Marijuana Laws

The United States Supreme Court has dismissed Nebraska & Oklahoma v Colorado, a landmark case that threatened to reverse Colorado’s marijuana legislation and undermine the nation’s efforts to legalize marijuana.

In the case, the states of Nebraska and Oklahoma argued that Colorado’s marijuana legalization in 2012 caused strain to their law enforcement resources through an increase in marijuana-related offenses. Because this was a dispute between states, Nebraska and Oklahoma were able to go straight to the Supreme Court through original jurisdiction, which allows the Supreme Court to see any case involving one state harming another.

Had the plaintiffs been heard by the court, Colorado’s Amendment 64 could have been threatened. It would set a similar precedent for other states that have also legalized cannabis.

Before Monday, The Obama Administration had urged the court to reject the case, as original jurisdiction is a rarely-used technique that is typically restricted to border disputes.

Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. said to the court:

“Nebraska and Oklahoma essentially contend that Colorado’s authorization of licensed intrastate marijuana production and distribution increases the likelihood that third parties will commit criminal offenses in Nebraska and Oklahoma by bringing marijuana purchased from licensed entities in Colorado into those states. But they do not allege that Colorado has directed or authorized any individual to transport marijuana into their territories in violation of their laws.”

On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, without comment. The ruling was opposed by Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.,

“There’s no question about it: This is good news for legalization supporters.” said Tom Angell, Chairman of Marijuana Majority,

“This case, if it went forward and the Court ruled the wrong way, had the potential to roll back many of the gains our movement has achieved to date. And the notion of the Supreme Court standing in the way could have cast a dark shadow on the marijuana ballot measures voters will consider this November. “

Nebraska and Oklahoma now have the option to pursue their case in lower courts.

“At the end of the day, if officials in Nebraska and Oklahoma are upset about how much time and resources their police are spending on marijuana cases, as they said in their briefs, they should join Colorado in replacing prohibition with legalization.” said Angell.

“That will allow their criminal justice systems to focus on real crime, and it will generate revenue that can be used to pay for healthcare, education and public safety programs.”

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Supreme Court Scheduled to Discuss Lawsuit Against Colorado Legalization on Friday

Supreme Court Scheduled to Discuss Lawsuit Against Colorado Legalization on Friday

On Friday March 4th 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States will discuss and review Nebraska and Oklahoma v. Colorado, a case that could potentially reverse Colorado’s progressive marijuana legislation.

Bordering states Nebraska and Oklahoma filed the lawsuit against Colorado in December 2014, twelve months after the state enacted a legal retail cannabis market. Nebraska Attorney General, Jon Bruning claims that Colorado officials are not doing enough to ensure the legal cannabis remains in-state. Containing cannabis products is one of the stipulations listed in the Cole Memorandum, the legalization agreement between states and the federal government.

Bruning stated,

“This contraband has been heavily trafficked into our state. While Colorado reaps millions from the sale of pot, Nebraska taxpayers have to bear the cost.”

The stakes are high as the ruling could affect all marijuana legislation at the state level.

“It has the potential to be a big deal,” said Sam Kamin, marijuana law professor at the University of Denver.

“Conceivably it could mean that the court finds that Colorado’s and every other state’s regulations of marijuana [are] preempted by federal law and have to be annulled or repealed, or can’t be enforced.”

The plaintiff’s are hoping the will recognize the power of the Supremacy Clause, which gives power to federal laws over those of individual states.

By invoking the Supremacy Clause, Republican supporters for the plaintiffs would be contradicting their long-held values for state’s rights. It could open the door for more legal conflict between states outside of the issue of marijuana as well.

The death of Justice Antonin Scalia has affected the case’s schedule as well as its potential outcome. Justice Scalia was predicted to be in support of the plaintiffs based on previous statements he made in response to questions about marijuana reform. In that instance, which was during a visit to Colorado, he used the Supremacy Clause to support continued marijuana prohibition.

Most cases seen by the Supreme Court make a journey though the lower courts, which can lead to an expedited decision by the Justices. Because this is a case between two states, it bypasses this process and goes straight to the Supreme Court. They will need to appoint a “special master” to perform much of the fact-finding and investigation, which could take years.

The Obama Administration has shown its support through the US Solicitor General by asking the Supreme Court to reject the case outright. States with marijuana laws, including Washington, Oregon and California have also shown support for Colorado.

The Solicitor General already filed a brief with the Supreme Court in December, asking that the court not review the case at all because it, “is not an appropriate case for the exercise of this Court’s original jurisdiction.”

While the Obama Administration has made it clear that it will not pursue marijuana reform during their final year in office, he previously made promises to stay out of state legislation, going so far as suggesting Congress could change federal law if enough states legalize marijuana. Despite these statements, federal agencies under his purview are still aggressively policing marijuana.

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Group in Oklahoma Petitioning for Medical Marijuana

Group in Oklahoma Petitioning for Medical Marijuana

Although many states have formed legalized medical marijuana programs in recent years, Oklahoma has yet to do so. This year, however, an organization called “Green the Vote” is currently working to change that.

In order for medical marijuana legalization to have a place on the ballot next November, 120,000 signatures will need to be obtained within the next 90 days. The group has recently been collecting the signatures at different events, including the recent Tulsa State Fair.

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December 30 is the deadline to collect signatures, and volunteers throughout the state have been active in obtaining them since the first of the month. These volunteers have been working to spread their knowledge about marijuana and the potential medical benefits that it has to offer, as well as informing others on the multiple forms of consumption, such as smoking, edibles and topical treatments.

While many argue that it shouldn’t be legalized since it is not FDA approved, it will be up to the people of Oklahoma to decide whether those who believe medical marijuana could help are given the option to use it.

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photo credit: Newson6

Oklahomans Protest AG’s Lawsuit Against Colorado

Oklahomans Protest AG’s Lawsuit Against Colorado

Oklahoma City | Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has just received another round of pushback from his decision to sue the state of Colorado for legalizing marijuana. Back in December, Attorney Generals from Oklahoma and Nebraska filed a suit against the state of Colorado citing Colorado’s responsibility to keep marijuana leaving the state with out-of-state residents.

This week, Oklahoma protesters gathered outside of Pruitt’s office in protest of his lawsuit. The protesters are upset with Pruitt, a champion of states’ rights, for going back on one of his core beliefs in the suit against Colorado. Chelsea Kennedy, who organized the rally said, “States have the right to govern themselves and Scott Pruitt, while claiming to support the Constitution, is clearly violating it.”

Oklahoma Protests Attorney General

A spokesman for AG Pruitt issued this statement in response to the protest:

“To be clear, the lawsuit filed by Oklahoma and Nebraska does not challenge in any manner or form Colorado’s legalization of marijuana for use and possession in that state. Rather, the lawsuit filed by Oklahoma and Nebraska challenges only the portion of Colorado’s law that legalized the commercialization of marijuana because those actions by Colorado have led to an influx of illegal drugs entering surrounding states like Oklahoma in violation of our state laws.”

The proclaimed increase in illegal drug activity was dismissed by Oklahoma Rep. Mike Ritze who said, “We’re searching for a non-problem. I’m looking at data, and it’s not there.”

The protest came just days after other Oklahoma lawmakers issued their disapproval of the Attorney General’s lawsuit. Ritze who loudly opposes AG Pruitt said, “If the people of Colorado want to end prohibition of marijuana, while I may personally disagree with the decision, constitutionally speaking, they are entitled to do so.”

via: KFOR

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