Victims of Marijuana Prohibition-A Soldier's Observations
By Allen St. Pierre
NORML introduces a few new regular blog items for 2010:
-- Letters From The Victims Of Marijuana Prohibition
-- NORML’s Reefer Madness Du Jour
-- Who Do I Want To Smoke A Joint With And Why?
NORML is in constant contact with thousands of victims of cannabis prohibition on a weekly basis. The organization is flooded with calls, letters and emails from citizens ill-effected by cannabis prohibition laws, from getting arrested and going to prison to civil forfeiture, child custody, revocation of drivers license, removal of student loans and workplace drug testing.
Below is a prime, firsthand account of how what appears to be a minor cannabis offense can seriously impair a person’s ability to live the most productive and prosperous life possible because they chose to relax with cannabis, as compared to alcohol.
The soldier below, who got busted in what is technically speaking a decriminalized state for cannabis possession, aptly points out the hypocrisy of the government to hire him into the National Guard and Army, but, because of a minor cannabis bust years ago, he still can’t get a minimum wage job in corporate retail big box stores. These same corporate brand names often claim to support and honor the men and women who serve in the military.
It would be one thing if the government’s war on cannabis consumers was actually effective, or that when citizens were busted in the prohibition they’d repent, defer to the government’s rationale for the prohibition laws and necessarily feel good about the taxing and stressful experience. There is no correlation to greater number of arrests equating to less cannabis use. Instead, since 1965, 20 million citizens in America come out on the backside of an interaction with prohibition laws and typically develop less respect for authority and the government, and perceive police as adversaries rather than public servants. It makes them jaded about the words and promise of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. It makes some citizens on the fringes developing an anti-government attitude so strident that they advocate violent revolt.
Why is any of this good in a democracy that relies on trust, respect and fidelity to basic institutions, institutions founded in America’s basic values, largely rationality and reason?
NORML thanks SPC Hunt, and hundreds of thousands of men and women in America’s armed forces, for making great sacrifice and taking risks to keep the country as safe as it can be.
Cannabem liberemus and godspeed Specialist Hunt!
To whom it may concern:
My name is SPC L. D. Hunt. I am 28 years old, a loving husband, and very proud father of an amazingly smart little boy. I am also currently in Iraq. I am writing to you in hopes that maybe my story can help motivate some of you to continue the fight you are bravely acting out in on behalf of the American people.
In May 2002 I was arrested in Brunswick county, NC for possession of less than one half ounce of marijuana. At the time I was in my care in a private area but I was unaware of laws at the time dealing with search warrants, etc. The police officer who arrested me drilled the hell out of me. Questioning me and making subtle threats against myself and my occupants, I agreed for him to search me personally. I told him of the bags and the bowl in my pockets and he promptly put me in cuffs and began to tear my car apart. After the search I was taken to the magistrates office and booked. I was given a court date and told to return. The cute part about that was when I was getting out of the police car, the bags were on the center console and when the officer got out, his elbow knocked one of the bags down into the floor between the seat and the console. When I informed him of what happened, he told me “not to worry about it”…
A few weeks later came my court date. I went to court to represent myself, ready to accept whatever punishment they were going to give me. I told the judge in a very professional manner of my mistake and my willingness to go along with the sentencing. I was given a $100.00 fine and 1 year of unsupervised probation. When I received the judgement I breathed a sigh of relief thinking that the worst part was over, when in fact, it was just beginning.
I consider myself a good worker, especially in terms of customer relations in sales positions. I was also working on getting back into college and moving on with my life.
But it became quickly apparent that nearly all employers would not hire me. Target, Walmart, and many other places wanted nothing to do with me, all while I watched them hire people with felonies and much harsher police records on them. I couldn’t figure out for the life of me how minding my own business and using such a small amount of plant material could cost me worse treatment than a car thief or someone with an assault record. To this day I still can’t figure the logic in it. Needless to say this affected my finances very quickly.
The next few years proved to be extremely trying as the only work I could get were at construction and jobs I had no experience in and I was not good in. I felt like I was forced into a position that made me constantly searching for new work as with that industry in NC the amount of work available was dependent on my employer’s success at acquiring new contracts. This did not bode well for trying to pay bills, go to college, and keep a healthy relationship with my wife.
In 2005 things came to an extremely bad climax and I was without work, none was available, and there was nowhere among the dozens of job applications I put in that would give me a second thought due to my conviction. All but one. And it was the one place I laughed at the thought of being hired: The North Carolina National Guard. The decision to join wasn’t very hard when I found out that with a simple letter I could be approved to put my life at risk for my country. Once again I wondered about the ethical and moral stance that places like Walmart, Target, and the other giant companies took when it came to hiring. How could I be rejected at a Walmart or a McDonalds and be hired in an instant by the US government? When the paperwork was over I was among the newest of the NCNG’s medics. I chose that job since I figured it would be a great career path and it allowed me to help stop my brothers and sisters from dying. As a medic I knew I could make a difference.
After I completed my training and returned home I was immediately put on the Katrina relief duty and worked extremely hard, trying to earn the respect of my fellow soldiers, which I can proudly say I did. I recieved an award for my service there and I still work with that ethic in mind. I thought once again that due to my hard efforts to make myself into a better person, those put in a position to judge me would see those efforts and be proud to hire a US soldier. I was wrong. Very wrong.
I was thrust back into the same position I was in before I joined. I almost regretted joining the Guard since it was temporary, I talked with my superiors about going into active service but talk of a deployment was in the air. And the lady who stood beside me and supported me through all this was hesitant to see me join as she did not want me to go off like this, but she knew it was something I had to do. So I held onto the thought of being deployed with my unit and the men and women who became like a second family to me. Weeks turned into months, and they in turn, into years. I fought extremely hard to get whatever work I could until I ran into a manager who worked at a local Pizza Hut who did not do background checks and just ignored it when I told her of my record. So there I was, a US soldier, now working part time at a fast food chain. I couldn’t get a job as an EMT with the Brunswick county government due to my record either. The government’s double standards were hurting me indeed.
Fast forward to 2008. I was finally being deployed. I had months before hand to keep working so I decided I needed a second job. I figured it had been 6 years and I was in great standing with the national guard so an employer would understand and hopefully have a spot for me. I went to a local Walmart again that was having trouble keeping employees, I went in dressed in a full business suit and told them directly, I wanted a managers position. I know I could drive sales, I know I could be an extremely valuable asset to a company like that. The store manager was eager to hire me. That is, until the corporate level called and told them absolutely not, that there was no chance they would hire me. So here I was, a medic with the Army, with a wife and a child on the way, forced into a spot to work whatever odd jobs I could find and forced to move in with my parents because I simply could not do anything working for $7.00 an hour part time. I was not allowed to go active because of stop loss for my unit. With the help of my family I finally made it to active status when our time to train was here.
Now at the end of 2009 I have confirmed that my conviction should be off my record by now and it should not pose a problem with any more hiring. I don’t count on that one. I have moved to Rhode Island with my wife where I plan on using my training to join an EMT unit while I go to school for an RN degree, and eventually a PA as I have been told by several Drs now that my talent for health care is extremely good.
To this day I still laugh that these vicious groups attacking marijuana have done so much damage. I hope they are proud that the have helped to make a US soldier out to be a monster despite being the man responsible for the medical supplies of 1000 troops, has ran dozens of missions outside our base in support of Iraqi Freedom, has helped to save the lives of soldiers and Iraqis, and has time and time again earned awards from the Army due to my service. I am proud of my service. I love my country.
I am extremely blessed to have the chance to do what I do. But despite all the support my country says it has, it casts a blind eye on me at the same time. It worries me, it keeps me up at night. But I can’t help it. My life was ruined because of a $10.00 bag of marijuana that I was going to use and then watch a movie in the privacy of my own home.
Please continue to do the great work you do. Maybe one day we can prevent cases like mine and others. These insane groups think they are doing the country a favor and yet they are doing nothing short of alienating people and forcing them to lead lives that they should not be forced into. Big companies such as Walmart, Target, Dillards, and many others preach constantly about how much they support our soldiers and yet would not give me the time of day because I stood up and admitted to having a very small bag of pot in my pocket. Not a selling charge, not doing anything reckless, just minding my own business and trying to enjoy myself. To me, that is a disgusting way of doing business. I feel they should remove their constant statements of support for the troops until they realize what their policies actually DO to some of the soldiers. I know I am not the only soldier in the military with past drug charges. In fact, I know most of my medical platoon at some point has done drugs, and we avidly support the legalization of marijuana. If it was legal we would still do it, but when we relax and hang out together the only thing we have is alcohol and we see what that does to a person’s body and mind…
It’s a shame.
In closing, thank you for your time, if you feel like sharing my story with others, that’s fine. I can only pray that it helps to prevent these things from happening again. I love my country but I hate the fact that so many feel it’s necessary to take away our freedoms and lie to keep up their efforts at turning innocent people and soldiers into outcasts. Please keep up the good fight, I will continue to pray for NORML and all those involved with it.
SPC L. D. Hunt
1-120th Archangel Medics
FOB Mahmudiyah, Iraq