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Cultivation Charges Dropped Against Georgia Couple Growing Medical Marijuana

Sullivan Chainey is a veteran of the United States armed forces. And not just any veteran, but one that started at the lowest rung the Air Force had to offer him and climbed nearly all the way to the top. Though Sullivan started his career as a lowly Private he quickly mastered his new trade as a pharmacy technician and decided he needed bigger challenges. By the time he was ready to retire 20 years later Sullivan had not only earned the rank of Captain with a full commission, but he was also a United States Air Force pilot and a veteran of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Sullivan Chainey is the kind of veteran that people back home hold parades for when they return from war.

“This shouldn’t happen. Someone who serves their country like he did shouldn’t go through this.”

Now in his 60’s, Sullivan’s mission has become much more important as a dedicated husband and caretaker of a wife with Multiple Sclerosis who is willing to do anything he can to help alleviate her suffering from such an unfair, life-robbing disease. Sullivan and his wife Ruth make their home in the north Georgia mountains where they are known by their friends and neighbors as a quiet, loving couple and pillars of their small community.

So maybe it’s because they live in such a tight-knit, relatively laid back community, where everyone else seems to have enough of their own problems to worry about, that none of their friends or neighbors changed their opinions of the Chaineys when a helicopter from the Governor’s drug task force swooped out of the sky last fall and planted agents right in the middle of the Chainey’s tomato garden — which also happened to contain 13 marijuana plants — and arrested Ruth for manufacturing marijuana.

Marijuana and MS

There have been multiple studies that leave no question that medical marijuana can be highly beneficial for patients with MS. Among other benefits researchers have found clear evidence that both cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) helps to regulate inflammation associated with MS by keeping the body’s cells from triggering an attack. Other studies conducted in 2011 found that CBD helps treat the symptoms of MS in mice by preventing immune cells from attacking nerve cells in the spinal cord. In one of the studies, mice who suffered from symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis were treated with CBD and went from being partially paralyzed to walking with a limp.

That’s powerful medicine — the only medicine that brought relief to Ruth — so last year she planted marijuana in her vegetable garden. Many would argue that growing your own medicine, much like growing your own food, provides a lot of benefits. You’re not dealing in the illicit drug market, you can be sure your medicine is free from pesticides, mold and mildew, and you can grow the exact strain needed to treat your condition (and in the amounts you need). But the state of Georgia doesn’t exactly see it that way, so Ruth was arrested by police and charged with felonies for growing a plant that has been used to treat the health and well being of humans for thousands of years.

Following Ruth’s arrest the couple found out that Sullivan was also being charged by the district attorney’s office. Because he admitted to helping Ruth by turning the cannabis she grew into edibles (so she wouldn’t have to smoke it) Sullivan was indicted by a grand jury and was to be arrested at Ruth’s court appearance last week. But then something no one expected happened.

Common Sense Takes Hold

David West is an Atlanta-area attorney that has defended hundreds of people all over Georgia in drug cases, mostly for felony marijuana charges. West carries with him a strong conviction about the war on drugs and the damage that is being done every day to ordinary, productive citizens as a result of that misguided war. Because he has been a criminal defense attorney for over 20 years he thought he’d seen it all, too, until he ran into a truck load of common sense in Fannin County, Georgia.

West said when he first met with members of the Fannin County District Attorney’s office at Ruth’s arraignment last week he was told that a warrant had been issued for Sullivan based on the grand jury indictment and that he would be arrested that morning and forced to bond out of jail. Though this is what Ruth and Sullivan both expected to happen, West didn’t see things that way, so he began pleading the Sullivan’s case to the Assistant District Attorney. “This shouldn’t happen” West told the ADA.  “Someone who serves their country like he did shouldn’t go through this”. After pointing out the couple’s trouble-free life, history of service and the fact that the only reason they were growing marijuana in the first place was to treat Ruth’s MS the ADA took his side. “I agree, let’s talk to Alison”.

Alison Sosebee, Fannin County’s elected District Attorney, can be described as anything but soft on crime. She is a hard-charging Republican DA who was elected based on a “Truth, Justice and the American Way” platform and is responsible for prosecuting felony cases in a three-county circuit. She is also, according to West, one of the most level-headed prosecutors he has ever worked with.

When West told Sosebee about what he believed were extenuating circumstances for his clients she asked if she could speak with them to get their side of things. “If we could do it the legal way we would, but we couldn’t” the Chaineys told Sosebee. Straight and to-the-point, the Chaineys admitted to their crime and were ready to take responsibility for it.

After speaking to the Chaineys, Sosebee received a crash-course in Multiple Sclerosis and medical marijuana from West and agreed that sending them to jail would not be in anyone’s best interest. “You’re right, if ever there was a case where this is the right thing to do then this is it” Sosebee told West. Thinking he had done just enough to keep his clients out of jail and hoping for some sort of deferred prosecution at best, West was shocked when Sosebee instead offered an even better deal: If Ruth was able to obtain authorization for medical marijuana oil from the state (Georgia calls it Low THC oil) then she would throw out her cultivation charges and dismiss Sullivan’s warrant. In other words, if a doctor would say she needed medical marijuana then that was good enough for her and this would all go away. And that’s just what they did.

It’s ok to do the right thing

This kind of case shows that it’s ok for police and prosecutors to use discretion and common sense, especially when it comes to the continued prosecution of a long-lost war on a plant that grows in the ground. Sosebee could have chosen another route, like pre-trial diversion or some other strategy that would have allowed her to put a mark in the “W” column yet still allow the Chaineys to proceed relatively unmolested by the system, but instead she chose to use compassion and common sense, something that we hope other prosecutors in the south are able to have the courage to use when the situation calls for it.

West, who holds the distinction of being the first attorney in Georgia to convince a court to recognize an out-of-state medical marijuana card, is now also the first attorney in the state to have a marijuana case dismissed due to medical necessity. He gives most of the credit in this case, however, to the prosecutor. “You have to have a brave enough District Attorney to do it” West said. “It’s as much about a courageous District Attorney as it is about me”.

Article Source: SouthernCannabis.org

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