Why I don't smoke pot

By VALERIE VANDE PANNE  |  January 8, 2014

Then, when I was 14, my boyfriend was giving me a ride home from school and he told me he had to make a stop before he dropped me off. I insisted on knowing where we were going, but he wouldn’t tell me. I threatened to get out of the car at the next light. Finally, he reached behind his seat and pulled out a Saran-wrapped green brick.

“You see this?” he said. “You know what this is? This is a pound of pot. I have to drop it off before I drop you off.”

I’d grown up believing this is the best, most free country in the world. But in that moment, the world around me spun in way it hadn’t before or since. I realized I’d been lied to my entire life. I didn’t live in a free country. My boyfriend and I both could go to jail for a long time if we were busted right then — for possessing a plant. Never mind that I had never even seen marijuana before and that my boyfriend was a good person; for the crime of possessing a pound of pot, we could both pay with our lives in prison. I also realized, in that moment, that we were poor, that justice has a price tag, and that there would be no fancy lawyer to get us off. We were screwed if anything happened.

Thankfully, we didn’t get busted. But today, tens of thousands of Americans are behind bars for non-violent marijuana offenses. And that is why, 25 years after I first realized this isn’t a free country, I continue to write about marijuana, and want it legalized .

Got a burning question? Email theduchess@valerievandepanne.com or tweet @asktheduchess.

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