Arrested For Marijuana A Year Before It Was Decriminalized. What Now?

In 2012, individual U.S. states began decriminalizing recreational marijuana. But what about everyone who was affected before 2012, a mere seven years ago? Enter Alfred “AJ” Dawson.

Miabelle Salzano Alfred "AJ"Dawson and friend Kris Furnish.

In 2012, individual U.S. states began decriminalizing recreational marijuana. Users rejoiced. No more arrest records for having up to one ounce; two, in Washington, D.C. (up to 28 grams and 56.5 grams, respectively.) As of January 2019, 22 states and Washington, D.C., have decriminalized recreational use. Forty-seven states, D.C., and Guam have legalized it medicinally.

But what about everyone who was affected before 2012, a mere seven years ago? Enter Alfred “AJ” Dawson: first arrested in Texas in 2011 for the possession of seven grams of marijuana, and again last year in Maryland; record forever tainted by said arrests. On March 25, Texas passed a bill that decriminalized marijuana and reduced punishment for possession to a fine with no jail time. 

Miabelle Salzano
Alfred “AJ” Dawson

As if finding a job isn’t already difficult enough for millennials, this college degree-wielding musician has found it almost impossible to gain employment, which in turn affects the whole of his emotional and psychological health, he says. But, this 30-year-old has managed to turn his experiences into a positive circumstance working as a cannabis activist with Maryland Marijuana Justice (MDMJ), an offshoot of District of Columbia Marijuana Justice (DCMJ).

Listen to AJ’s story:

With weed policies in states still rapidly changing, is it fair to discriminate against people for breaking a soon-to-be obsolete law? Governor Jay Inslee of Washington doesn’t think so as Inslee announced plans in January to pardon thousands convicted of possession before Amendment 64. New Jersey’s bill would have done the same had it not been called off last week. Will other states follow Washington’s lead?

Miabelle Salzano
Alfred “AJ” Dawson

Miabelle Salzano
The Wicomico County Detention Center where Alfred “AJ” Dawson spent time after being arrested for marijuana possession in Maryland.

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