When was the first time you realized the government wasn’t telling the truth? I clearly remember the first time I had the revelation that the government lies, and it was that moment that has driven me to become involved in the movement to legalize marijuana.

It was the first time I ever smoked a joint. 

D.A.R.E. to Question

It's funny to think, but when I was a kid I believed everything the government told me. Years of patriotic, pleasantly painted pictures of history had colored my vision of the world. Stories of how the United States was the golden city on the hill, the beacon of freedom, and liberty filled my textbooks. Hours of watching History Channel programs and seeing victorious G.I.s fighting dastardly Nazis instilled a sense of moral certainty in the government’s actions. After taking D.A.R.E class in middle school and having an off-duty police officer explain the danger of drugs, I swore I would never touch marijuana in my life.

But times change. As I got older, and as the history I learned grew more complex, I began to see the cracks in my youthful, simplistic ideas about the world. The United States was a complex nation, filled with political infighting, systematic oppression, and self-centered interest. This was nothing new on the grand stage of the world, but it was new to see this from my own government, to see that the government would lie, cheat, steal, and kill to get what it wanted

Yet I held true to my belief that they had not lied to me until the day I smoked my first joint. I had gone over to a friend’s house after school with some friends. We went to play Magic the Gathering, and before we started, my friend asked if I wanted to get high. I had never been offered marijuana before, and all I had ever heard was that it would ruin your life, and make you go crazy. I sheepishly declined, but my buddies just went on without me. They rolled a joint and passed it around. I remember being amazed at the smell because I knew I had smelled it before in public but could never identify what it was.

Finally, on the third or fourth rotation, I made my move. You could call it peer pressure, you could call it curiosity, you could also just call it an impulse, but whatever it was, I knew I needed to try it. I took the joint and had a puff, coughed up a storm to the raucous laughter of my friends, and then took a second puff, as I had seen everyone else do. Puff puff pass, right? After that I passed it on. I remember I was afraid at first. I had rarely ever taken an aspirin, much less an illegal drug; what could I expect? However, my anxiousness quelled. My worry became serenity. My body felt light, and my mood felt great. Marijuana was wonderful.

By the time the card game was done, it dawned on me marijuana was an amazing plant. Marijuana didn’t make you crazy, it gave you clarity. Marijuana didn’t hurt you, it healed you. Marijuana was an amazing drug and I had almost missed out on it because of the lies I was told as a child. I had never dared to question what the government had told me about the drug, and when I finally tried it on a whim, I learned that they had lied.

D.A.R.E to Bring Change

From that day forward I had a new perspective on the role of the state. I learned that the government would lie to its people about something amazing, and punish them based on those lies. In high school, I became enthralled with modern political history, active in the Young Republic organization, and an avid student of sociology and economics. In college, I became an avid student of legal philosophy, devouring works on critical theory and sociological surveys on the American criminal justice system. All of these academic pursuits centered around how and why the government punishes for the possession of marijuana. 

For me, what finally turned these academic exercises into concrete action for marijuana reform was a injustice close to home. In 2014, a young person near my college was caught with a pan of marijuana brownies. The DA weighed the entire pan of brownies, including the pan, for the weight of marijuana used to charge him. He faced a first-degree felony, with a potential of 5 to 99 years in prison. I was so appalled to see an injustice like this, so incensed that the state would punish someone with such severity for something as innocuous as a brownie. I had to do something. I had to get involved.

However, like many in the movement, I was unsure where to begin. I began attending local NORML meetings, and I even participated in fundraisers to pay for the young man’s legal defense. Even so, I couldn’t help but feel that there was very little I could do to make an impact.

That was three years ago, and from that moment on, I have been trying to advocate for real marijuana legislation reform. Once I began working on reforming the Republican Party from the inside, it became clear that many people in the party have not truly realized that the government has lied to them. They know their government lies, but they have never felt what that truly means. I know that I have felt what it means to have the government lie about marijuana, and all I can hope to do is expose that lie to as many people as I can, because that is the only way to make the public see the truth.

Hunter J. White is the Communications Director of the national Republican political organization, Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, or RAMP, a Non-Profit 501-c3 organization dedicated to the complete repeal of marijuana prohibition in all its forms. In this series of articles, Hunter shares the challenges, experiences, and insights that he has gained from years of working to bring marijuana policy reform to the Republican Party.