Here I am in New York.
I grew up in an underdeveloped country where there are many taboos, stereotypes, and prejudices. In addition, my family was very conservative and respectful of ethical and moral values. My parents educated me with an altruistic ideal; they always told me that I must respect the rules and laws, obey the authorities, and be an example to others. They considered college education is the only way to grow as a person. That kind of culture motivated me to study law. Indeed, I became a lawyer.
I continued with the conservative way of my family. I saw wrong that a person had a tattoo, that used any drugs, including marijuana, I was against someone for being different from what I knew as “normal.” I made prejudices to people I didn’t even know, simply because of the way they looked. I can tell a vast list of things that I believed, and now I no longer believe in them, or I have modified them or improved them. But now, I’m going to focus on the use of marijuana.
As I mentioned, I graduated from law school. I was working in the criminal area as a Prosecutor for more than five (5) years. Most of my cases were about drug trafficking in the Dominican Republic. Every day, I had hearings to get convictions against those who sold, distributed, or used drugs. According to the law, a person who consumes marijuana can be punished for six (6) months to two (2) years in prison (Art. 75, Law 50-88 of the Dom Rep).
Thousands of people sitting on the bank of the accused looked at me with sad eyes, asking for an opportunity, explaining to me that they were not doing anything wrong. However, I was not listening to them. I believed they were wrong, immoral, dishonest, liars. I only paid attention to my values and morals; therefore, I was never benevolent with them, and they were punished as if they were the worst criminals.
My life changed entirely in the summer of 2016. I emigrated to the United States for family reasons. Here I am in New York. In the big city. In the capital of the world. In a place with a very different culture and a way of seeing different things. I started working in another work environment to meet people of different nationalities, to study, to read the news, to use public transport, to integrate and adapt to a new life.
I could say that my way of seeing things was bombarded day by day for everything I began to experience. Yes, using or trying, but there I was sitting at a friend’s house smoking pot. At that time, I became “the worst criminal too.” What happened to me?
Am I a criminal?
I don’t want to respond to the question because you can imagine the answer. My way of thinking about marijuana changed utterly. Not only was I against marijuana’s users, but also, I persecuted and punished those who used it. Now I see cannabis as something regular and free choice for anyone. Does this mean that I became another person? Or that I no longer believe in the moral values that my family taught me? None of the above. By changing or stop believing in something does not make us another person.
Addressing the issue of the use and legalization of marijuana is very complicated because it covers economic, social, political, and legal aspects. There are several arguments for and against the use and legalization of marijuana. According to the article “The Arguments For And Against Marijuana Legalization In The U.S. [Infographic]” by Niall McCarthy, published on Forbes.com, we can find a survey conducted by the Gallup in 2019, which concludes that: U.S. public support for marijuana legalization increased. The article cites: “Towards the end of last year, a Gallup poll found that U.S. public support for marijuana legalization surged to 66%. Especially noteworthy was a newfound majority support for legalization among Republicans and Americans aged 55 and older.”
I’m not 55 years old, but it is evident that as we are getting older, we are changing thoughts, replacing ideas, substituting habits. This process of evolution makes us see things more objective, impartial, and neutral. I developed a higher tolerance for diversity, even though I can’t entirely agree with it.
I see life more flexible than before. I no longer believe that marijuana is harmful to society, as I thought back. Marijuana helps people who use it for medical reasons, it would free up law enforcement to focus on other types of crime, it is a matter of freedom and person choice, it will provide a good source of tax revenue for state and local government, and Government regulation of marijuana would make it safer for users.
If I could return the time when I was doing my work against marijuana, I would make more flexible decisions against those people who were not doing anything morally wrong. I know that I cannot return time, so I would like to not only educate people about the positive effects of marijuana but also encourage the idea that our beliefs are susceptible to change, that the human being is in a constant transformation and our point of view can vary without becoming a bad or good person.
In conclusion, I feel more confident in my own beliefs. I grew as a person and made my own decisions. It is fascinating to see how we stopped believing in things that we considered relevant before. I don’t regret anything I’ve done in my life, although it would have been better to grow up with a more open mindset. My beliefs and my way of thinking have evolved due to the enormous diversity of New York and the constant search to feel good with myself.