What Makes a Person Bad?
09.28.21 - 4 min read
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About the Author:
Born September 30, 1975, Quawntay “Bosco” Adams, the only son of one of the original Compton Crips, spent 28 of his 45 years of life confined to the cells of juvenile, county, state, and federal detention facilities. He’s rewriting his story now, though, and looking to inspire change and hope.
This blog is sponsored by Green Thumb Industries. Any opinions expressed are those of Quawntay.
Am I a bad person because I’ve sold marijuana? What about you, those who purchase it for ill loved ones or consume it for your own personal recreation?
Our federal government—and some local governments—still penalizes individuals for exercising their natural rights to smoke and barter pot despite most states’ decriminalization of the very same act. Because of that criminalization, some might say that we are bad people. Only bad people break the law, they opine. This stigmatization is one of the ways the war on cannabis has harmed communities. The stigma of being a criminal has created caste and shame. It has made some alter their lives to conceal indulgence in a plant that does more good than harm.
Ironically as I write this blog, I’m at a hotel in National Harbor, Maryland. I’m here attending the NADCP’s (National Association of Drug Court Professionals) RISE21 convention. This is where attorneys, probation officers, and other court officials meet annually to inform and educate each other on the progress and developments in drug treatment and related criminal diversion programs. A guest in one of the sessions stated that the courts were becoming too lenient with substance abusers. Instead of allowing them to walk free after breaking rules of sobriety, the courts should throw the consumers in jail for the weekend to encourage them to be more obedient, he suggested. Upon hearing this, I couldn’t help but think of how this perception stigmatizes substance users as bad people—so bad that they deserve to spend the weekend in jail.
When will we reach the point in America where we stop perceiving everyone who steps beyond the bounds of manmade law as bad people? Today, our federal government still treats marijuana as a Schedule One drug. An actual War on Drugs was declared. And despite many states decriminalizing pot, there are still many Americans perceiving pot peddlers and consumers are bad people. This guy at the convention appeared to be one of such.
But let’s not allow the term “criminal” to define us as bad people. Rosa Parks once stepped beyond the laws by sitting at the front of the bus. Martin Luther King Jr. on many occasions stepped beyond the laws of the land in his fight for freedom and equality. Harriet Tubman broke myriad laws as she crossed the Mason Dixie to help free slaves at night. Did that make them criminals? Sadly, by the judging eyes of manmade law, it did. Did that make them bad people? Of course not. Sometimes the laws are bad, and breaking them doesn’t necessarily make one a bad person or detriment to society. Law does not define character. The courage to disregard them for the sake of freedom and humanity does.
Now, here we are today in a country that still criminalizes marijuana. I was sentenced to 420 months in prison followed by eight years of probation for attempting to possess it. Many are still behind bars because of this leaf. People in inner cities are still being arrested for it, facing lifelong consequences that impact their livelihood and potential. Criminals indeed, according to the law. And perhaps you too will be called a criminal for purchasing this substance that is legal in your state, but illegal under federal law. I can assure you, though, that this will not define your character. However, if you give in to these negative perceptions or are apathetic to the negative impacts of this War on Drugs, history will judge your character.
So, for this month of awareness in the war against cannabis, as you purchase, consume and exchange your cannabis, remember those of us who were negatively impacted by its criminalization. Join forces with us “bad people” by being openminded and spreading the word that our character—and yours, too—is not determined by our involvement with cannabis. Better, perhaps we are rebels with the cause to decriminalize the growth, possession, distribution and consumption of marijuana.
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