Higher Ground: A family affair

How many of our brothers and sisters will get busted for pot this holiday season?

I remember a Thanksgiving, nearly 20 years ago. At the time I lived in a very low-income neighborhood. Most white people would call it a "bad" neighborhood. Back then, it was almost entirely black and Hispanic people living there. I loved that neighborhood. It was filled with families, good music, and delicious food. The neighbors were always friendly to me. Even the drug dealers were nice. They sold marijuana back then, nickel and dime bags ($5 or $10 sizes).

I remember there was a disabled man who hung out on the street around the corner from me. I'm not sure the name of his disease. I just know his legs were skinny and twisted, and he spent his days on crutches. He supported himself by selling those nickel and dime bags.

He was always friendly and kind. He worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week, rarely taking time off. That Thanksgiving morning, as I walked my dog around the block, I saw him out early. It occurred to me that he was busy: The neighborhood was stopping by to pick up some marijuana before their family Thanksgiving meals. Back then, the marijuana was mild and outdoor-grown, filled with seeds. Free of judgment, it made me laugh, and amused to see how busy he was.

But then the reality of what was going on hit me like the weight of war. When people would leave his spot and turn the corner to walk around the block, the police were there to scoop them up off the street and put them in a police van. I watched as they did this over and over again. Horrified, I didn't know what to do. The van quickly filled with men between the ages of 20 and 40, busted with enough weed to roll maybe a joint or two. Nothing more. They were being taken to jail, and I knew they wouldn't be out until the following Monday, when they could see a judge.

This scenario infuriated me. The number of neighborhood families destroyed — on Thanksgiving. All those young men who stepped out just for a few minutes, with mothers and wives and children and grandmothers and aunts waiting for them at home to eat. And they'd never show up. The worry the families must've felt, the fear, the concern, the not knowing, the waiting to hear word.

The overtime taxpayer dollars were paying the police to do all this on a holiday.

Can you imagine? Going through something like that on Thanksgiving morning for a little bit of weed?

Perhaps you have.

I'll never forget that Thanksgiving. Every Thanksgiving now, how many families are without their son, their daughter, someone they love, because of an unjust war over a weed?

When Thanksgiving was first declared a national holiday, the nation was in the midst of the Civil War. Still, though the country was hurting, there was much to be thankful for, as there is today. But the Civil War ended in less than five years, with approximately 750,000 casualties. There were nearly 700,000 marijuana arrests in 2013 alone, and our war on marijuana has been going on for decades. Is the pot war even a conflict we as a nation really want to carry on?

How many more Thanksgivings need to pass before we're done incarcerating people over a plant?