Pubdate: Wed, 06 Jun 2001
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 2001 Houston Chronicle
Author:  Thom Marshall


A high school teacher wrote in a long e-mail that, up until a few
months ago, he had been a regular user of marijuana for the past

His experience provides much to ponder in the ongoing debate about the
nation's drug policies.

This teacher called himself a marijuana addict and said that although
he seldom spent more than $20 a week to satisfy his addiction, he now
is paying a steep price that can't be measured in dollars. It has cost
him a relationship with a woman he loves, and he fears it will cost
him his career.

He said he never tried to sneak off and smoke pot during school hours
but fired up when he got home each day and in the morning before
leaving for work.

"On my worst days, I went to school high," he said, "hiding out in my
classroom, hoping that I could disguise my stonedness from students
and teachers. And I was successful. At least I was never called on it.
No meetings with the principal about abnormal behavior. The few people
who I confided in were shocked that I had any involvement in drugs at
all. In 25 years of getting high, I have never been caught with pot,
no police record of any kind."

What it took to hide his habit He bought pot from the same person for
the past 10 years, someone who lives in another city where the teacher
used to live. The teacher said that even after moving to Houston a few
years ago, he would drive back there when his stash ran low.

He "didn't want a soul in Houston to know" that he used pot but
eventually did confide in his girlfriend, asking her "to help me break
my dirty little habit."

She tried. One day last summer, upon discovering he had left a short
time earlier on a pot-buying trip, she took off to stop him.

"I was nearly to Columbus when she first caught up with me," he said.
"Tailgating me down I-10, she flashed her lights, waving me over to
the shoulder. I ignored her. She pulled alongside me, then began to
ease over in my lane to force me off the road."

He stopped, and she begged him to return home. But, enraged by her
dangerous tactics, he told her to leave him alone and he drove on. She

"She tried to force me off the road again," he said. "This time we
bumped each other, sending us both spinning down the

They stopped and exchanged more words. Both vehicles were damaged but
still drivable. A cop happened along and stopped to ask what happened.

"I told him it was girlfriend problems, that she knew I was going to
see someone else and she couldn't stand the thought," the teacher
said. "After a few more minutes of lies, he let me go, no ticket, just
a puzzled look as I pulled away leaving them both standing on the side
of the road."

The truth comes out The teacher later learned his girlfriend provided
a more factual account of the situation and that the cop started to
radio arrangements to have the teacher followed and then busted with
his dealer. But the girlfriend talked the cop out of it because it
could have cost the teacher his job. A bit later, on his way back to
Houston, the teacher was stopped by the same cop, who found a bag of
pot and a bong in the car. The cop said he wouldn't arrest the teacher
for the pot but wrote him a citation for drug paraphernalia, saying it
wouldn't show up on his record.

The teacher, however, is convinced that when he applies to work in a
school district and his background is checked, "if their search is
thorough enough, they will see that ticket."

"Everywhere I apply, they will know," he said. "Sooner or later, they
will know."

Sometime after this experience, and after breaking up with his
girlfriend, the teacher joined a support group and now is in his
fourth pot-free month. His future remains uncertain.

So what do you think? Does this story justify continuing the drug war
against marijuana users? Or does the teacher's 25-year history with
pot demonstrate the drug war's failure? Should we escalate the war so
as to catch and punish more people like this teacher? Or should we
drop the war and concentrate on education to help people understand
pot's potential dangers, and on treatment for those who have pot problems?
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