my drug war story

~ ~ ~

m e d i c a l  m a r i j u a n a

p e r s o n a l  u s e

l e t t e r s,   e t c.

c o n t a c t   m e

o u r  f u t u r e

a b o u t   m e

p h o t o s

h o m e

~ ~ ~


The 21st century began several months ago but three or four decades ago I was a happily married stay-at-home mother of two young daughters. I'd been divorced from my first husband for a year or two when, nine months into a mostly blissful marriage, my new husband died in a car accident on his way home from work. This was a devastating blow, of course, but I knew I had to carry on the best I could for the sake of my young daughters. Six weeks later we were still reeling from that loss when I learned that my children's father had also died suddenly. As mind-numbing as these events were for us, it got even worse: we now had no income.

We were eligible for social security benefits from both men, but by the time the Social Security Administration recovered from the shock of having to deal with two filings by the same widow and children within six weeks' time, it was nearly a year before all the red tape was untangled and the benefit checks finally started coming.

In the meantime, I had applied for and received welfare benefits, but our need was far greater than that meager income could be stretched, and we were always struggling to exist. I tried working for a while, but child-care costs defeated the purpose. When an acquaintance suggested I could augment my income by selling 100-lots of "white crosses" for him I reluctantly accepted, and thus began my short career as a drug dealer.

It wasn't long before I was also selling marijuana, hoping to help keep food on the table and gas in the car. It wasn't much longer after that that I was arrested, convicted of five drug crimes, and sent to prison. Not only was I not very good at dealing drugs, I hadn't really even been making enough money to do us much good. I went to prison for $30.

Even though this was my first offense, the war on drugs was in its early years and judges were beginning to impose much stiffer sentences than in the past. I received five 2-10 year sentences, to run consecutively, for five felony counts related to my having sold, or intended to sell, a total of seven pounds of marijuana in two different transactions. I've always suspected that the judge who heard my case chose to "make an example" of me to further his political aspirations. He did go on to become Kansas' attorney general for 16 years.

By the grace of God, my parents beat the state to my children, or I almost certainly would have lost them. After 32 days in the county jail, I was transported to the state prison for women at Lansing, Kansas to serve my sentences. It was a long drive for my family, but, thankfully, my relatives took turns bringing the girls to visit me. Before long, caring for my daughters was too much for my parents, so the girls were sent to live with other relatives while I did my time. My eldest went to Phoenix to live with my sister's family, so I did not see her again until I was released. My "baby," six years old, lived with my aunt and uncle near Kansas City, and my aunt brought her to visit me every six weeks or so.

In prison, although I was a model prisoner I learned how to be a better criminal. Rubbing elbows with all sorts of felons was nothing if not instructive. I felt woefully out of place, though, because I didn't really feel like a criminal. I felt more like a victim--punished for trying to care for my family while the federal government dragged its heels dispensing benefits that were rightfully ours and could have provided the support we needed.

I eventually was released from custody, collected my children and we settled into an apartment of our own. I had learned a trade--printing--while I was locked up, and soon found employment. I even found a government program to help with childcare costs so I was able to bring home more of the money I earned. Life was pretty good again--except for my criminal record limiting where I could be employed. Even so, the printing trade sustained us for most of the next three decades.

Fast forward to August, 2007, when the Kansas Coalition for Compassionate Care, for which I am a senior researcher, announced a new campaign to bring medical marijuana to Kansas patients. At the helm of this movement is none other than the former attorney general who as a district court judge sent me to prison 30 years ago for selling the very same substance!

Fast forward again to October 2008 when our grandson didn't come home after school one day and when we hadn't found him within an hour or so we had to call the police to help. Nik showed up soon after the deputies did and the case was quickly resolved. By this time, all four of the adult members of our household were on the front porch talking with the cops. We thought they would leave when they saw that Nik was safe (except from us), but then one of the deputies said he'd smelled pot when he first arrived and asked who'd been smoking it. There was only a moment's hesitation before my mouth opened all by itself and said, "It was me, officer. I smoke it for my degenerative disk disease, degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis, and to prevent glaucoma, which is prevalent in women on my mother's side of the family."

The young deputy seemed nonplussed for a moment before asking first whether I had a doctor's note or something similar, and then asking whether medical marijuana was legal in Kansas(!) I assured him that it wasn't yet, but that we are working on it. The confused deputy finally decided that he wasn't going to arrest me, but that he was charging me with possession and he said I would receive a notice in the mail about my court date. He also "confiscated" the rest of the joints I had.

A few weeks had passed when one afternoon I received a call from the assistant DA who wanted to talk with me about my case. He advised me that I did not have to talk to him, but I was pretty sure it would be in my best interest to do so. The young man asked me about my medical use, so I gave him some information, and then he let me know that he is in complete support of medicinal cannabis. He also said he believes the wrong drug is illegal. He wished me much success in my medical marijuana and legalization missions and ended by saying that he wasn't going to charge me. It was a huge relief of course, but being a lover of irony I was almost disappointed because I was going to ask the ex-AG to represent me if I had to go to court.

In September, 2009 I began building a website for and organizing and promoting the Kansas Medical Cannabis Network in the hope of helping Kansas patients and others affected by the medical marijuana issue to unite and work with our lawmakers to change Kansas cannabis laws because I don't believe that trying to feel better or live in less pain should be against the law.

"Marijuana smokers themselves must provide the energy and the resources to end marijuana prohibition; no one else is going to do this for us."
- - - - Author unknown
top of page | 620.752.3280 | potwin, usa

© 2009 by c.a. riley. Made from scratch. All rights reserved. Beware of dog.