A reader writes:
I work as an attorney and have my own successful practice in San Francisco. I also do a bit of family law and have represented many educated, successful professional parents whose use of marijuana has often been used by the other party to the case as a means to have my clients ordered into some kind of rehab if they want to see their kids.
Once this almost happened in a case where the opposing counsel was someone with whom I had gotten high at a conference. I politely offered to her that I would admit in open court that I had gotten high with her unless she withdrew her request. She did, and probably had a hell of a time explaining that to her client.
I'm a prosecutor, which puts me on the front lines of this battle but also in a tough spot, so I'm not going to give out too many personal details for obvious reasons.
Nonetheless, let's just say my life is in order. My other pot-closet buddy and I have been slowly edging our way out for about a year on our own little public awareness campaign. I've been due for a drug test now for a while, so it's been about a month for me. While I'm doing just fine without, the best way to describe the feeling is that I'm just a little bored. I like to smoke, I did it about 4-5 times a week on nights and weekends.
The thing that upsets me most isn't the illegality, but the ignorance and consequent societal stigma. People who do not and have not ever smoked or know anyone who does somehow feel entitled to an opinion they know nothing about. Every time I tell someone I know that I smoke and see them come to an understanding that pot smokers can be intelligent, motivated, responsible people, I can't help but think of the Old-South racist or small town midwesterner who meets his/her first black or gay friend and suddenly realize they had no idea what they were so upset about. I hate the stereotype, and every time I disassociate someone from it, it's my own little political victory.
I'm a 30 year old government attorney (on the civil side). I went to a top 5 law school, and i'm quite well regarded within my agency, but I know I would be fired immediately if my marijuana use became known to my agency (or if I was arrested - even if the charges were ultimately dismissed). Prohibition has also halted my career path, as numerous government jobs are foreclosed to me because of my marijuana use.
While I could always go into private practice and makes lots of money, I've never had much interest in that, and always wanted to work for "the good guys" (at least the people I consider "the good guys"). Many attorneys from my division go to the U.S. Attorney's Office, and while I'm fairly confident that they would offer me a job, I also know that I could never take it, because I would be required to undergo a background check where I will be asked about marijuana use. While I probably could lie and not get caught, if there's one thing the Martha Stewart prosecution taught me, it's never lie to a federal agent in the course of an official investigation. I mean, no job is worth going to jail for - not to mention being a serious violation of my ethical obligations.
It's actually gotten quite hard responding to questions from colleagues as to why I don't leave to go to the U.S. Attorney's Office. I often think of lame excuses, but wish I could tell them the truth.