Cannabis and Criminality: Coping with a Possession Charge

Cannabis users should not be considered a burden of the legal system. We are sentient human beings with rights, not just numbers in the docket.

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The night I was arrested for marijuana possession  ranks as one of the most traumatic and humiliating experiences of my life.  On the evening of September 26, 2012 ,  I was  manhandled by an authoritarian police officer and treated as a common criminal for having a small glass pipe in my car. I thought my life was over.

[quote_right]”Cannabis users should not be considered a burden of the legal system. We are sentient human beings with rights, not just numbers in the docket”[/quote_right]

The events of that night left me with more than six months of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I had nightmares, flashbacks, and frequent panic attacks. Not only that, but I was facing debt, months of probation, and a potential criminal record. My self-esteem was low and my anxiety high.

However as a result of that night and lengthy resolution process that followed, I was able to see how damaging the legal system can be for non-violent cannabis users. I experienced the stigma against cannabis first hand, which only strengthened my resolve to fight it.

According to an FBI report, someone is charged with marijuana possession every 42 seconds. These individuals are typically of no harm to society. Many are the victim of overt racism, as the majority of those arrested are Latino and African American. The justice system simply ignores the fact that many cannabis users are responsible adults who do not deserve to face trauma, discrimination, and a criminal record because they prefer a “non-approved” intoxicant or a natural medicinal option.

Cannabis users should not be considered a burden of the legal system. We are sentient human beings with rights, not just numbers in the docket. We and we alone are entitled to make decisions about our own bodies.

Ultimately, it is important for cannabis users who have been caught to take the process one day at a time. Be introspective about your use. Has cannabis lead to consequences in other areas of your life, such as occupational, familial, or physical problems? If so, it may be time to explore any underlying mental health issues that could be contributing to your use. Always be aware of the reasons behind your substance use, even if it has not caused concern.

If you are found guilty or plead no contest and are put in a first-offender program, realize that this too shall pass.  Even though it may seem like it, facing a possession charge is not the end of your life. Remember that the shame you may feel is culturally-imposed. You are not the degenerate the system wants to paint you as. Until cannabis is nationally legalized, innocent cannabis users will continue to face prosecution. It is up to us to continue to advocate for our rights as individuals and as a community.