UPDATE: After Kristoffer Lewandowski was violently extradited from California to Oklahoma, felony charges were dropped amid intense pressure from social networks and independent media.
UPDATE July 15, 2015: While he could still face charges in a military court, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Kristoffer Lewandowski no longer faces potential life imprisonment under multiple felony charges for possession of marijuana, which his wife insists he was growing to treat severe post-traumatic stress disorder.
According to the Free Kris Facebook page, Lewandowski was extradited from California to Oklahoma on July 9. Four other inmates being transferred alongside the veteran were injured during an accident that supporters called an act of deliberate violence. But good news came on Wednesday, when Ricardo Pereyda, an organizer from the Weed For Warriors project, announced victory on a Change.org petition: “Kris has been released from jail, all felony charges have been dropped, and the remaining charges will be transferred to veterans court. It’s thanks to the outpouring of support from people like you that this was able to happen.”
Lewandowski’s story went viral thanks to widespread coverage in independent media, including MintPress News, which led to almost 20,000 signatures on the petition demanding his freedom. Another post on Facebook credited the assistance of Kansas lawyer Sarah Swain, who drove to Oklahoma to defend the veteran pro-bono.
GERONIMO, OK –— A veteran of America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan now faces life in prison for his attempts to treat his post-traumatic stress disorder with medical marijuana. His wife is pleading with the courts and media for leniency, fearing incarceration will take a father away from his children.
U.S. Marine Corps veteran Kristoffer Lewandowski served three tours of duty, including service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Like at least 13% of Gulf War war veterans, Lewandowski suffers from PTSD and, also like many other veterans, he’s used medical marijuana to alleviate his symptoms. But Oklahoma, where he originally lived with his wife Whitney and three children, has some of the harshest penalties for cannabis in the United States, and only legally protects limited use of CBD oil for medical purposes.
The Lewandowski’s problems began in June of last year, when police were called to deal with an apparent domestic dispute that resulted from a flare up of his PTSD symptoms. When a search of his home turned up six marijuana plants, police and the local media treated it as a major bust.
“With children present this is a bad situation gone worse for the whole entire family,” Comanche County Sheriff Kenny Stradley told Oklahoma’s KSWO.
But Whitney Lewandowski painted a very different picture of her husband in an exclusive interview with Truth In Media’s Barry Donegan.
“They’re trying to use me as a victim and to make it look worse on his case,” Lewandowski told Donegan. “My husband has absolutely never laid his hands on me ever. He is not an abusive man, ever … quite the opposite. He is extremely doting.”
According to his wife, Kristoffer Lewandowski has never been offered domestic violence treatment or even drug rehabilitation by the state, but only jail time and a potential lifetime prison sentence. He sought out cannabis as a way to cut back on his ingestion of pharmaceutical drugs. “He was taking 13 pills a day, and it was just killing his liver. He was having all these issues with his body and he just wanted to try something more natural to just see if he could do without that many pills a day,” she said.
Research shows that marijuana smoking is safe for the lungs, and recent federal changes even allow Veterans Affairs doctors to prescribe medical pot for PTSD, but only in states that already have laws in place recognizing the plant’s anxiety-reducing and other healing properties.
Free on bail, the family moved to California where Kristoffer easily obtained access to legal, medical marijuana. But last month, undercover police surprised Lewandowski with a guns drawn raid at his children’s preschool, leaving him in a cell awaiting extradition to Oklahoma. Supporters of the Lewandowski family created a petition asking for Kristoffer’s freedom and a Free Kris Facebook page, but GoFundMe recently shut down a crowdsourced legal defense fund.
Lewandowski’s struggle echoes another case highlighting the outrageous charges marijuana users and producers can face. Last year, 19-year old Jacob Lavoro, a resident of Round Rock, Texas, faced life in prison for making pot brownies, but ultimately accepted a plea deal for 7 years probation after protests and a global outcry on social media forced the state to reduce his charges.