“At 20 years old, you don’t think, ‘We found some pot. This could affect the rest of my life.’

“We were riding dirt bikes out in the woods. And we stopped to take a rest, and went ‘what is that?’ And they were these tall little hemp plants.

“They were useless. I had them months and months later. I just didn’t throw them away. I forgot about it. I totally forgot about.

“I went to my friend’s house one day and they were discussing it and saying they had been selling it … I said I think I’ve got a couple of those plants still.

“The very next day is when [the police] kicked in my door.

“I plead guilty to a felony because they promised me I wouldn’t go to jail if I plead guilty. You do two years probation, you won’t go to jail. I didn’t even think about the two years. As soon I walked out of court that day I knew that was over for me. I knew there was nothing I had to worry about.

“Here we are 25, 30 years later … it keeps coming up.

“How many job applications don’t ask you if you’ve been convicted of a crime? I mean almost all of them ask.

“At every step I’ve had to check that box. Felony, felony, felony. ‘Please explain.’ And they give you very little room to explain it. How do you explain it? I’d leave it blank. I’d rather explain it sitting across from someone.

“I can’t be a volunteer firefighter because 30 years ago I picked five pot plants in the woods? Seriously?

“There’s a beautiful lake right here and there’s a dive team. I’m a certified rescue scuba diver so I’m thinking I’ll get on the dive team. I look at the application and it says ‘Have you ever been convicted of a felony?’

“It’s easier for me not to fill it out. But by me not participating, what do they think about me? There’s a guy that doesn’t want to contribute to the community. But the opposite is true. I want to contribute. I want to be a firefighter. I want to be on the dive team.

“If they’re going to legalize [marijuana] they should go back and revisit cases … The sooner people return back to society and they’re able to become productive citizens or pay taxes again, the better.

“We talk all the time about the overcrowding of prisons, the cost associated with incarcerating and rehabilitating. If you want to save money – if you want to limit government and cut costs and bureaucracy – this is huge.”

Harry Jackson
Findlay, Illinois