They arrested me for having weed in my high school parking lot when I was 16. I have been an outlaw ever since.
The moment itself was horrible—I got pulled over by the cops into the school parking lot on an exam day when everyone was out at lunch; people clapped as I did sobriety tests; a cop pulled a bag of weed from my pocket and took out his megaphone: “Everyone, look at your friend, look at your peer, see what drugs will do to you,” he said after he handcuffed me and just before he pushed my head down and he put me in the back of his car.
But the ensuing years were worse. They arrested me for having weed in a grocery store parking lot when I was 17.
They arrested me for having a pipe when I was 18.
I was breaking the law—a stupid and unjust law, but a law nevertheless— on every occasion, so I deserved to be arrested. I can own that. But, because they told me weed was bad and my experience showed it wasn’t, I also quit believing everything else they said. Pot is a gateway drug in this regard: If you classify pot with drugs like coke and heroin, why should we not think those drugs are fine?
The war on drugs was a war. I was an enemy—every week, in my hometown, I was pulled over and called a fag because I had long hair and my pockets were searched—but, as a white guy, I was not the enemy, so none of these arrests ruined my life. The rapper, Young Moose, on the other hand, was arrested with weed as a 12-year-old in Baltimore. That put him in the criminal justice system. That put him in the crosshairs to be arrested again and again. At presstime, he is still in jail based on evidence in a music video.
I did not do time. But I was always paranoid. I have never believed or trusted any government since then. I went on, like a good white person, to be successful. I got some education, I even taught and became an administrator at a high school. And yet, I still didn’t trust authority; I didn’t trust the cops. I was a good middle-class, small-city Southern white boy and you made me an outlaw. It was not the weed itself, but the laws surrounding it that fucked me up.
Most of you in the political class know this. Because most of you are also middle class (or higher). That means that even if you didn’t smoke, you knew someone who did and whose life it did not ruin. Surely they smoked weed at goddamn Oberlin.
But as of Oct. 1, it is no longer a criminal offense (see the new law and all our weed coverage at citypaper.com/weed). You will just get a ticket for anything under 10 grams of smoke. As a paper, we will begin to treat it as we would, say, outdoor drinking, and this week we introduce The High Life, a regular marijuana column in the Eats & Drinks section.
So, I call on you, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, members of the City Council, delegates to the legislature, members of the executive branch, step out of the fogged-out closet and tell us about your experiences with weed. Have the courage to demand that it be legalized entirely, as Lt. Melvin Russell of the BPD, recently did. We can only end what The Sun called “the New Jim Crow” after an ACLU report on the racial disparity of prosecution for pot if you are courageous. If you remain cowardly, as I have been, and hide the fact that you smoke or have smoked, other people just like you will continue to be fined, and, if the paraphernalia law doesn’t change, arrested, since it is impossible to smoke the weed without paraphernalia. This is an issue of conscience and you must do the right thing.
If you, Madame Mayor and members of the City Council, smoke in private, I call on you to come out in public and burn one. I will join you. If we get caught and your political clout doesn’t save you, City Paper will pay the $100 fine for you. Think about it: You could make history, while also having a blast. And, if you personally hate me (who doesn’t these days), we’ll find someone else to burn one with you.
To get you in the mood, we recorded this little ditty, ‘Come on Mayor $RB (Won’t You Smoke a LIttle Weed With Me),’ where we directly call on Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Council President Bernard “Jack” Young, and councilmembers Carl Stokes and Brandon Scott to smoke with us (mainly because they have names that vaguely rhyme with weed-y references—but we’d also like to smoke with Rikki Spector and any other councilmembers):