Before delving in to this let me make one thing clear. SMOKING POT IS STUPID! It is not harmless. It messes with peoples mental ability.
But then, we all do stupid things occasionally don’t we?
I recently met a guy named Marcus. Marcus is African American, 37-years-old, dropped out of school in 11th grade, has 4 kids (that he knows of), and lives with the mother of the two youngest along with his second child. He doesn’t know where his first child, Sarah is. Sarah’s mother moved away with her soon after she was born. Marcus has a couple of arrests on his record for drug possession, once for cocaine, once for pot. Thanks to prison over-crowding he was given probation both times instead of a jail sentence. He no longer does cocaine, but still gets together with friends once or twice a week to smoke a joint in the garage behind his house.
I drove by his house one day. This is not a neighborhood I felt very comfortable in and I’ve spent some time in some pretty unappealing and rough neighborhoods. I didn’t even slow down when I drove by. His house is a 1940’s 500 square foot pseudo Cap Cod in need of a lot of work. I also saw the 1 car parallelogram shaped garage in back where he and his friends smoke their pot.
So, what do you think about Marcus? Sound like a problem? Not someone you’d want living next door to you? Someone with a lot of things in his life to fix? Should he be arrested and convicted for dealing and smoking pot? Think his children should be taken away from him?
I met Marcus through a mutual acquaintance, one of the people Marcus smokes a joint with occasionally. Our mutual acquaintance just so happens to also be his
former probation officer. Marcus has been off probation for 14 years but they’ve stayed in touch because his probation officer has become a mentor to Marcus for these many years. It was his probation officer who, a year after his probation ended, helped him decide to quite doing cocaine, to marry the mother of his child, and to become a father rather than just a baby maker.
Marcus works at an industrial laundry. He doesn’t make much money but it’s a job and has provided 7 years of steady income. He knows the street and the local gangs and works to keep his kids free from them. Though he cut his own education short he’s intent on all of his children at least finishing high school. He doesn’t know much about college or ‘professional’ careers but he does know that he wants them to get jobs and be “decent”.
What good would it do to arrest Marcus? To throw him in prison? He may not be an ideal father, but he is a father. Will his kids do better if they’re visiting him in prison instead of having him at home?
And what about a pot smoking probation officer? I met him at a Christmas dinner for the board of directors for our state’s second largest charitable foundation. My wife is on the board with his wife (who is BTW, a VP of Engineering for a Fortune 100 corporation). Their oldest child goes to NYU and plans to be a neurologist. Should he be arrested for his pot smoking? What good would that do?
Both of these guys will tell you that they know that they’ve been permanently harmed by their pot smoking. I don’t disagree, particularly with Marcus, who exhibits typical pot-head slowness. My probation officer friend said that he has cut back to just once or twice a month though. Neither of them believes that any future harm from their occasional use is worth giving it up.
On this last point I strongly disagree. I think that their current and future use, even just once or twice per month, will harm them. I also think that their actions are harming their families.
On the other hand, they are both, from everything I’ve been able to tell, decent husbands and pretty good fathers.
Is it possible that a pot head can also be a good spouse, father, and citizen? Probable even?
Our society’s solution is to arrest Marcus. Is that the right thing to do?