At a time when America is trying to right its wrongs when it comes to the treatment of people of color and the war on drugs over the past few centuries, a Black, disabled veteran is still being held in prison on minor cannabis charges.
Sean Worsley, an Iraq veteran who suffers from a traumatic brain injury and PTSD, uses medical cannabis for his pain and anxiety. He legally purchased the medicine in his home state of Arizona before his arrest.
Worsley and his wife, Eboni, were arrested in Pickens County, Alabama, where cannabis is still not legal, back in August 2016. This took place when the couple stopped at a gas station and were approached by police officers for listening to music “too loudly”. The police then proceeded to search the vehicle where they found Worsley’s medical cannabis.
“I explained to him that Alabama did not have medical marijuana. I then placed the suspect in handcuffs,” the arresting officers stated in an official report.
In addition to the cannabis, the officers found some unopened alcohol and prescribed pills—all legal. However, the pills were not in their original bottle, which the officers claimed was a felony. The Worsleys spent six days in jail and then faced even more criminal proceedings.
The couple, originally from Arizona, then moved to Nevada, but they got a call a year after the incident explaining that bail bonds were revoked on their case and they had to go back to Alabama or be charged with failing to appear in court. Worsley, who is reportedly not able to make informed decisions on his own due to his disability, was convinced that he had to sign a plea agreement…or he and his wife would face jail time.
Worsley was then sentenced to 60 months in prison.
Alabama, Prison, And Cannabis
There are currently only about 60 or 70 people in the Alabama prison system for cannabis, and those are usually more serious trafficking charges. Because of this, many people are beginning to speak out in Worsley’s defense.
“They got arrested for a whole truckload, semi-truckloads even, for trafficking,” State Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster claims of the other people currently serving time in prison.
In a letter to Alabama Appleseed, written as he serves time in the Pickens County jail, Worsley expressed how upset he is being away from his wife and children, and how humiliated he is having to call them from prison.
“I feel like I’m being thrown away by a country I went and served for,” Worsley wrote in a letter to Alabama Appleseed. “I feel like I lost parts of me in Iraq, parts of my spirit and soul that I can’t ever get back.”
This is clearly not the first (or last) cannabis charge involving a Black man or veteran that needs to be addressed, but the fact that it is now gaining more public attention may help lessen Worsley’s sentence and bring awareness to the issue of the intersection between racial justice and cannabis justice.