Larry Rathbun

Medical Marijuana Patient & Prisoner

Larry Rathbun, prisoner of the drug war
I have recently spent 19 months in care of the Montana Department of Corrections and I still have 8 years of paper (parole and probation). I walked in and rolled out! My crime was taking care of my health with the use of medical marijuana.

I returned from Vietnam, the last time, with neurological problems. That was in 1971 and the health problem was MS. I am now 53 years old and attribute my success in avoiding the wheelchair for so many years to the medical use of cannabis. I was able to work until 1983 and have been drawing a VA service connected disability pension since 1990.

Since 1981 I've lived on a secluded, 20-acre ranch located 15 miles west of Glendive, Montana, in Dawson County (extreme Eastern Montana). I had my own pharmacy and minded my own business.

On December 4, 1999 the local law became aware of my lifestyle and decided they needed to protect me from myself. I had nine immature Cannabis plants. The next day I was arrested and charged with Criminal Manufacturing of a Dangerous Drug with the Intent to Distribute, a felony Criminal Possession of a Dangerous Drug with Intent to Distribute, another felony (although I was in possession of less than an ounce -- to include the dry weight of my plants, 2 grams each), and of course, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Criminal possession.

After my arrest, I was committed to the locked mental health unit at the VA hospital in Sheridan, Wyoming. My doctor tried to prescribe me Marinol, (pharmaceutical THC) but could not because of the laws.

Montana law does not allow the medical use of Cannabis for a defense. In October, 2000, after a three-day jury trial I was found guilty of breaking the law and a presentence investigation was ordered. On March 12, 2001 I was sentenced to 10 years with 6 years suspended for each felony (to run concurrent) and 90 days in the Dawson County Jail for the criminal possession of drug paraphernalia. On March 15, I was taken to Deer Lodge to start my time. I think I set a record -- three days from sentencing court to the state prison.

What kind of a criminal record do I have? This was my first offense.

In reviewing all of the records (and I have them all, to include audio tapes, video tapes, trial transcripts, medical records and all the legal documents), one might come to the conclusion that the fact that I am a two-time Vietnam veteran had to do with my punishment. My mental health counselor in prison put it this way: "You were railroaded."

I have since moved to Auburn, Washington to escape Montana law concerning my health. Considering everything I feel that the drug war will not have much effect on me here.

Until the lawmakers open their minds and rewrite the laws, judges have the excuse to interpret them as "Cannabis is an evil drug with no medical use". Those of us that know better will have to keep on trying to educate those that don't.

Larry Rathbun - March, 2003