Have you ever been happy to talk to a door-to-door salesman? I have, because if I hadn’t been standing at my open door talking with a salesman three nights ago, eight police officers with face masks and guns drawn would have broken down my door. So thanks, nameless salesman, for saving me the expense of a busted door.
It began like this. The house I live in is for sale, and while showing the house a realtor smelled what he thought was marijuana. He called the police, who came and tried to make me self-incriminate, which I didn’t do. After our conversation, they left. The next night, I’m writing my midterm paper when the upbeat knock of a salesman lures me to the door. You know what happens next.
Hands cuffed behind my back, I waited while cops raided every square inch of my home, unloaded every drawer, and intimidated me with what they call “verbal judo.” They told me, “Cooperate and we can drop the charges, or don’t cooperate and we can throw you in jail.” Cooperation, I learned, meant becoming an informant. They explained that if I would do a “controlled buy” and turn in my dealer, they would protect me and maybe drop the charges. But it doesn’t stop there. They said I could further help my case by informing them of people who have committed murder or theft, or who are into child porn.
I’m not exaggerating. These officers thought I knew at least one murderer. I confess, I did have a bong, a pipe, and about two grams of marijuana put neatly away in my closet, but I had to reassure the officers I know no murderers or sexual predators, and that I wanted to cooperate.
Disappointed that their warrant yielded only $40 of weed, the cops took it to the next level. I have a shotgun registered to me, and it sits in my closet with a few shells on the top shelf. They confiscated the gun and marijuana, ticketed me for possession of a controlled substance and paraphernalia, and threatened: If you don’t cooperate by doing a controlled buy, we will charge you with a felony for having a firearm and illegal drugs at the same time.
It’s time we raised awareness regarding marijuana. I first smoked weed at the pimply age of twelve and have been a regular user since I bought my first pipe at eighteen. For almost a decade I have smoked recreationally while excelling at everything in life. I took a year break from smoking to fulfill a dream of working with adolescents who have drug and alcohol addictions. My cannabis use replaces my need for more addictive and dangerous (though legal and prescribed) medications that treat ADHD, anxiety, headaches, and insomnia. Until now, marijuana has not contributed to any negative outcome in my life or made me want to commit any crime. In fact, it helps me remain positive, productive, and healthy.
The criminalization of marijuana has not encouraged these effects, however. Because marijuana is illegal in Utah, users are forced to buy on the street, where they are often exposed to hard drugs. This is how marijuana becomes a “gateway drug.” If we were to legalize marijuana, we would give recreational or medicinal users access without exposure to hard drugs and criminal activity. And marijuana is less addictive and harmful than caffeine, and pales in comparison to the dangers of alcohol and tobacco, all legal.
The cops’ interrogation of me taught me something: ignorance is dangerous. Those officers seemed to think that because I smoked cannabis, I must be privy to grievous crimes like murder and child porn. I respect non-users as much as users, but rhetoric propagated in ignorance leads to dangerous and costly situations for citizens and law enforcement.
People are going to smoke weed; history has proved that. So why are we still using legislation that costs the state (that means YOU, if you pay taxes) millions of dollars? Why are we creating public enemies out of people like me instead of reassessing marijuana and making millions on its taxation? If I don’t go all Breaking Bad and do a controlled buy, I’ll be charged with a felony—because I exercised my second amendment right while consuming small amounts of cannabis inside my own home. I could possibly be denied my dream of being a teacher and contributing to society the way I feel I best can. Is it worth it? Or should we rethink our laws against marijuana?
This is not a “poor me” complaint because I’m pissed I got caught. Rather, it is a call to reconsider what’s important. The time and resources the city will dedicate to my charges (surveillance, paperwork, an arrest carried out by eight officers, and court proceedings for months to come) could be much better spent in pursuit of real criminals, or funneled into education. True, the cops aren’t the enemy, but neither am I. Nor are the thousands of other law-abiding, peaceful, contributing citizens who smoke marijuana recreationally or medicinally. The enemy is the ignorant approach to marijuana and the current laws regarding it. It’s time to wake up, see marijuana for what it is, decriminalize it, mitigate risk for our law enforcement officers, start taxing it, and focus on more pressing societal problems.
Now let me get back to studying for finals—I’m trying to keep straight As.