I don’t even smoke in my car. But when a cop stops me now, they can’t use “cannabis odor” as probable cause to hassle me.
The “cause” is right here on my card, officer.
I take CBD and low-THC oil to treat PTSD from being incarcerated.
So I don’t have to worry anymore about officers trashing my car because they think they smell something.
According to the Georgia’s Department of Public Health, the state’s “medical marijuana law allows certain qualified persons to legally possess up to 20 fluid ounces of ‘low THC oil,’ which is derived from the marijuana plant.” A “Low THC Oil Registry Card” held by a qualified person authorizes them to have the oil and protects them from arrest.
Living with a marijuana conviction
As a 22-year-old Black man with a cannabis charge, being seen as a menace in the eyes of the law is not the thrill that’s portrayed in entertainment.
The idea that I’ve lost credibility and the admiration of cohorts, childhood friends, and family causes an anxiety that’s hard to escape at times.
Sometimes, I feel my whole life’s journey could be determined by how one person in a single moment happens to feel about weed.
On paperwork, it’s often that simple. Unless you are fortunate enough to get your record expunged.
Why I use cannabis
I started smoking at an early age, mostly to fit in at kickbacks and community gatherings.
After partaking, I noticed that any frustration or aggression I felt toward teachers or classmates suddenly dwindled. Instead of behaving irrationally in tense moments, the cannabis instilled alignment and inner-peace.
As an adult, cannabis became part of my self-care routine. I smoke to control anxiety and racing thoughts. Cannabis also helps to dull the agitation inspired by the menial state of our society.
How I got the card
During the last six months of my incarceration for cannabis possession, the thought dawned on me: “How am I going to use cannabis while serving a grueling probation term?”
One day, an inmate informed me that he went to a THC doctor and enrolled for a low-THC oil registration card. I didn’t fully buy into it at the time.
But when I came home from prison at the beginning of 2021, I scheduled an appointment with Dr. Kristin Mary Gore for $50, with a remaining $200 due before the start of the appointment.
Turned out to be some of the best advice I’ve ever received.
How the card has changed my life
The main thing I’ve seen this card do is shift the attitudes of government and law officials.
Before my probation officer was informed of my oil card, she was ready to violate my probation and send me back to prison at the slightest hot piss test. The card changed all of that.
Police officers also feel less compelled to trash my car once they’re informed of my medical condition.
It’s a perspective switch. Amazingly, the slightest change in perspective can be the difference between a warning and prison time.
The PTSD of being arrested for weed
The anxiety I feel from even minor police contact is somewhat comical. The fear and physical response is almost instant. The blue and red lights are the trigger. I always assume they’re coming for me.
When I am stopped, I feel the need to beg and pray for the chance to take out my license and insurance without them thinking I’m making sudden movements.
Every recent protest and murdered Black person comes through my head when I’m in direct contact with law enforcement. How can I make sure not to make any mistakes that trigger my death?
The card has helped me approach these intense situations more calmly.
Blue and red lights still send my mind back to the back of a cop car. But now, my mind just prays for the next victim’s safety as the sirens speed away from me.
When I’m let go after a traffic stop and finally pull away, my heart is beating so fast it feels like I just got away with murder.
Cannabis should never involve that much stress.
It’s time for the U.S. government to legalize medical and adult use and free the over 40,000 citizens still serving non-violent cannabis convictions.
Though recreational use remains illegal throughout Georgia, cities including Atlanta and Savannah have decriminalized or otherwise reduced penalties for possession of less than one ounce.
Note from the Georgia DPH‘s site: “The law only authorizes the legal possession of up to 20 fluid ounces of low THC oil by qualified persons. It does not make the sale or possession of all types of marijuana legal in Georgia. Possession of any form of marijuana by an unauthorized person is and remains a violation of state and federal law.”