To look at me, you are bound to come to the wrong conclusion. The years have been hard on me. I am 70 years old. I fought in Vietnam. I suffer from a host of health problems, including PTSD and chronic pain. My face and body reveal my condition and my experiences.
Last year I was arrested. I had argued with a school principal about how my grandson was being treated, and the principal contacted the Berlin Police. I was sitting in my car, trying to calm down, when the officers approached me. They conducted a field and breath test, which was inconclusive, and later a blood test, which showed the presence of marijuana.
Among the medicines I take to relieve my pain is legal marijuana. I have a medical prescription for the drug. I do not abuse it, and at no time was I impaired. But the law presently doesn’t seem to distinguish between impairment and the presence of THC in you blood stream.
I hired a lawyer, who persuaded me to take a plea, pay a fine, and lose my license for a month, rather than taking it to a jury trial. The whole ordeal cost me over $2,500, and it left me feeling as if I had been the subject of discrimination, largely because of the way I look.
I am not writing this letter to claim I was not guilty. The court has decided that. I write because I hope for a little understanding from the criminal justice system for others who might be treated as criminals for the way we look.
It’s only human nature to make judgements on other people. Too often we think we know a person simply by looking at a face or a body. There are laws against discriminating against people for their race, gender, and sexual orientation, but there are no laws against discrimination based on appearance. Obesity implies self-indulgence. Age implies diminished mental abilities. Poverty implies a moral failure. Each of these quick judgements is wrong, but all too common.
Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of a time when people would be judged by their character, rather than the color of their skin. We can dream of a time and place where character counts more than appearance. We need to be more sensitive to other people’s conditions.
In our lives each of us has challenges, limitations, special needs, and hardships. Most of us keep them hidden from all but our closest friends and relatives. Meeting me on the street or in a restaurant, you might be repelled by what you see. I’m old and I’ve done my share of suffering—but it shows in the way I walk and talk and the way I look. I can’t change this. It is what age and nature have done to me. I am not what I look like. It is not fair to judge me by stereotype. It is not fair that anybody be judged that way.
P.S. I believe that there is a type of profiling occurring here. This needs to be looked at. I’m not sure who would be the one or ones for me to talk with this about, but this is a big issue that definitely needs to be foremost in the minds of individuals that are making decisions that effect other’s life. Now that marijuana has been legalized, and is being used for medicinal treatments, authorities are making judgements that are unwarranted and then act on them.