On July 27th of 2017, my girlfriends and I were recklessly smoking marijuana in my neighborhood. I was 19 at the time. We had exactly 1 gram, and we decided to smoke out of a bong in a car in broad daylight. We thought we were in the clear, as we looked around and saw that there were no cars around us. There couldn’t possibly be anyone watching us. We made sure of it. The one thing we failed to think about was how we can never actually be in the clear while doing something illegal in public. Once we were all pretty stoned, a middle-aged white man came out of nowhere and knocked on the car window claiming to be a federal DEA agent. “Are you guys seriously smoking doobies outside of my house?!,” yelled the clearly, furious man. The fear instantly kicked in. We all knew what we were doing was wrong. How could we possibly get out of this situation?

That feeling is unforgettable. I used to say I would never get caught. I thought I was “smart” with my illegal activities. There was always this voice in the back of my head that would say, “that would never happen to me.” For some reason, you never think the worst of the worst is going to happen to you. It’s almost as if your brain shields you, especially when you’re young. You feel like you can get away with anything. At least that’s how I always felt. I was completely reckless, and I loved it.

The so-called federal DEA agent forced the driver to get out of the car and lectured her for a what seemed to be hours. I was entertaining everyone in the car, basically laughing at the fact that we were so screwed. Humor is a coping mechanism, it always helps to turn a shitty situation into a funny one. That didn’t last very long. We tried to reason with him many times, but he seemed to be so fixated on the fact that we were doing something illegal in front of his house. He didn’t even stop to think about how young we were, and that maybe it was just a silly mistake. Maybe if he wouldn’t have called the cops, we would’ve learned from that feeling, that fear, to never do something like that again.

The cops eventually came after a while. It’s intimidating as hell to get surrounded by a bunch of policemen, with their official vests and whatnot. Authority is intimidating, especially when you’re not used to it. As I said before, this couldn’t possibly ever happen to someone so responsible, someone so smart, someone who had already gone through a bunch of lows within the past year; someone like me. We were asked to be honest with anything we had on us, as we were going to be searched anyway. We admitted to having 1 gram. To everyone’s surprise, Broward County had recently passed a law to fine any amount of marijuana under 20 grams. It was simply a $100 fine.

It was different for me though. I had just gotten a THC cartridge the day before. I had it with me, and since we were asked so nicely, to be honest, I handed it to the nice policeman, not knowing what I was in for. The policeman simply whispers something to his partner before looking at me and realizing I had no clue what I had just done to myself. He asked, “do you know what this means?” I said no. He replied, “you’re not going home tonight.” Turns out THC cartridges are a felony. I had no idea. It was a silly mistake.

I spent the night in jail. I never would’ve imagined I would go to jail. My brother bailed me out, and I was released the following morning. I just now started a drug court, in November of 2018. Drug court requires random drug tests Monday-Friday, along with group counseling a couple of times a week, and mandatory court hearings every so often. My whole life now revolves around this program. The pros: it’s only one year, it guarantees me a clean record when I finish. The cons: it’s a whole year, I can’t smoke, I can’t drink, I can’t be reckless. I can’t fight the law, I can only comply and strive to never have to deal with something like that again. At the end of the day, the system isn’t human. The system is heartless. I committed a felony, and I am lucky to be able to get it expunged. A felony is a felony. We were doing something illegal and there really is no excuse that is going to make the judge budge. There is no “silly mistake.” Recklessness is simply not worth being thrown into a jail cell and being viewed as a criminal in the eyes of the justice system.

I have learned many things about myself through all of this. I think that’s the most important thing we can do when we go through crazy experiences, whether they are good or bad. To be able to take them all in, and to grow. Experiences are nothing without personal growth. Shit is going to happen, whether you are a good person, or a lost one. It’s not because you deserve it, but simply because life is random and unfair. However, life is also beautiful, and I’ve learned to appreciate it. I realized how dependent I became on being reckless to feel normal, having to drink or smoke to have fun instead of being in tune with reality. Reality is the best thing there is, and I am grateful for everything I have gone through because it has really shaped me into the person I am today.

Author: Aztli Jimenez

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