Justice Denied: Dolores Halbin of Monet, Missouri

Dolores Halbin, 63, a registered nurse, grew medical cannabis for her ill husband who died as a result of jail time.

“On March 18th, 2014 our home in Bates County, [Missouri] was raided. We spent one week in jail. During that time my husband wasn’t given any medications for anything. He had very bad diabetes. He had a silent heart attack in jail and consequently died,” Halbin says.

Dolores and her husband, Gene, were married for 40 years. She wears a pendant containing her husband’s ashes.

“Two weeks and three days after we spread my husband’s ashes, I went on trial,” she explains. Her story went viral. She was contacted by advocates all over the world.

“My oldest brother called me from London to ask why Gene and I were on the Front Page of the London paper,” she recalls. On it was a photo of Dolores standing at the podium next to her attorney facing the judge that day. Nearly a year after the home raid, Dolores was given two years of unsupervised probation.

Even though this was the couple’s first and only criminal charges, Dolores’ and her husband were not strangers to cannabis conviction. Their son was in a head-on collision in front of their farmhouse in 2003, which led him on a path from prescribed oxycontin to using heroin to ease his pain. He safely replaced these with medical cannabis, which led to the charge he was sent to prison for 44 months. He was five months from release when his father died. 

“But our son lived. So we are among the lucky ones,” says Dolores. “He is now president of the Kansas City Oxford houses for drug addicts released from prison.”

Three years after her husband’s death, the board of nursing had accused her of moral turpitude, and stripped her of her nursing license, putting her in the same class as those who stole medication or worse.

“This didn’t just happen to Gene and I. Two of our children spent the week setting-up a fundraiser for bond. They didn’t sleep. They couldn’t eat. On Saturday night my son drove to the jail,” Dolores explains. “They brought me into the visiting booth wearing shackles and handcuffed me to the table. My son burst out in tears. I told him to please see if they were giving his Dad insulin, metoprolol and antibiotics. He had a toe infection. If his blood sugars ran high, he would lose his toes. But they didn’t give my husband medications,” she adds.

“He had a silent MI and multiple TIAs and picked up an antibiotic resistant staff in a toe in jail. I had never worn shackles,” Dolores says. “I look ghastly in Orange. But, I knew this was a death sentence for my husband.”

Dolores and Gene advocated for Missouri’s medical cannabis legislation. “We became ‘Archangels’ as Gene called it, of children with Epilepsy. Archangels go into battle,” Dolores recounts. 

“Our Medical Marijuana Bill passed with 70% approval. Come June, our kids with epilepsy and [older Americans] with glaucoma won’t be criminals anymore,” she says. 

In the summers, Dolores opens up her home to special needs kids and their siblings to let them spend time with her grandkids as much as they want. “There’s a fishing lake and a spring fed swimming creek. They call me the CFL (Crazy Farm Lady!) The children keep me breathing,” she adds. “They give me a purpose and something to do till I get to go back to my husband.”

She had to sell their farmhouse to pay for all that she lost, but was given her nursing license back recently. She still cannot work as a nurse until she is able to pay a few thousand more dollars to ask for expungement.

“I hope to work as a cannabis nurse educator, and offer what knowledge I do have to patients, to families, and to healthcare providers.”

In Dolores’ words:

“My husband is my soulmate. I fell in love with him the first time I saw him when I was 15. We had to wait until a week after I turned 20 to marry because [my] mom said I was not going to be a teenage bride. He died two months to the day after our 40th Anniversary. Thanksgiving night.

He died at home, in our bed. After such an incredibly cruel 18 months, 7 toe amputations,  4 sets of stents, and in the end, dementia and lower extremity paralysis from bone spurs that developed from all the post amputation bedrest. And so much $%&*# pain.

The morning we were arrested, we had just got back from our every morning 2 mile walk with our dogs.

Knowing it cost me being a nurse was another nail in his coffin. My husband and three children were at my pinning. He knew how hard I—we—all worked to get me through school. He knew how much I loved my career.

I curled up next to him in our bed. The hospice nurse had finally gotten him duluated and he had slipped into a quiet sleep.

I laid my head on his chest. I pulled his arm around me and held his hand. I fell asleep like I had every night for 40 years.

“The hospice nurse woke me just before midnight. He was special. He said it was time. I still don’t know how he knew, but he did, and he knew I needed to be there… my husband’s  breathing slowed down… then his heartbeat slowed down. And then, he was gone. I didn’t move for a long time.

The hospice nurse gently got me up, took me to the kitchen and gave me my phone.

At day’s end, I had three college degrees and I’m ordained. I was 60 now, with no career, no job and a criminal drug charge. I was unemployable.

I thought about that while I cleaned toilets and scrubbed floors for $10 per hour, cash.

I got my Nursing License back from Moral Turpitude charges,  

On March 21st, it will have been 3 years since my sentencing and I will be able to pay another couple thousand dollars for an expungement. […]

But I’m tired. 

I’m suddenly just so damned tired.

Thanks for listening!”

—Dolores Montgomery Halbin 


Cruel Consequences: Portraits of Misguided Lawis a portrait exhibit designed to educate communities and erode the stigma of cannabis criminalization. Portrait stories are available to community, advocacy, and industry events to promote awareness and provoke dialogue that encourages viewers to question assumptions and actively engage in undoing the damages of cannabis prohibition. Find them at cruelconsequences.org and on social media at @cruleconsequences.                             

Emerald contributor since June 2020

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