“Prohibition is supposed to be aimed at limiting drug use but it’s only leading society to hell. It’s persecuting the wrong people.”
Prohibition is a road to hell paved with good intentions – this is Don’s story
I think of myself as a good person and well behaved. I’ve always been employed, have great friends and a loving family. At 63 years old, I’ve tried drugs like cannabis, ecstasy, acid, and ice – and I remember being petrified before my first experiences. I’d heard all this rhetoric saying that if you use drugs, you’re going to die. That’s why I got involved with StoryLab – we need to have an honest and sensible conversation, not this hysteria.
It wasn’t until the second time I smoked cannabis that I realised why it’s illegal – because it felt good. It was in a car with my mates down the back of the local footy field, smoking out of a bong. The first time, I was so scared because my parents had told me that you’d die or run crazily down the street. This idea that you shouldn’t enjoy yourself – that we are all evil sinners that must repent – I don’t believe that. After my first time trying drugs, I came to see a different view.
You see, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Prohibition is supposed to be aimed at limiting drug use but it’s only leading society to hell. It’s persecuting the wrong people.
I’ve been arrested twice by police, both times to do with drugs. The first time I was 19 years old and it was 6 am when the police came barging into my room. I was asleep at home in my parent’s house when all of a sudden four officers were standing around me, accusing and harassing me. They were making comments at me because I was naked at the time. I felt humiliated and scared. I remember they kept saying ‘this is so bad’ but all they found was the tiniest block of hash – about ten bucks worth. It was made out to be a mortal sin.
Even talking about it now, I feel a wave of grief. It changed my life. I was working in the fire brigade at the time and could have been quite successful, but after that, I felt like I needed to leave Sydney. I wanted to run away. I loved being a fireman, it was a good job and I knew I was doing a good thing in the world. But I thought I couldn’t be a fireman if I had a criminal record. I know I’m not a criminal, but the court process is so damning. For a while, I regretted leaving, but I couldn’t bear living in fear of being found out and what people would think of me.
I knew I was taking a big risk the second time I was arrested. I was running a cannabis cafe in Nimbin, selling weed over the counter in broad daylight. The money we were making went back into the community through local charities. Anyway, they sent seventeen police – just to arrest me. People tell me I look ‘so straight’, that I don’t look like a drug user at all. I saw the look of disbelief on the faces of those policemen and their heads spinning as they were looking around. This time I was treated with the decency you’d hope would be extended to a fellow human being.
Prohibition has been a negative all throughout my life but it hasn’t impacted my choice to use drugs. I have always been able to get what I want when I want it. Prohibition doesn’t stop supply and demand, it just impacts quality. Back in the day, drugs were pure and weren’t cut with anything so my first experiences were bright, funny and revealing of the world. That’s why we need to take drugs out of the hands of organised crime – regulate it, tax it, and educate people properly about safe drug use. Look at Canberra – it’s been a year since cannabis was legalised there and nobody has gone rampant crazy. If anything drug use has dropped.
I feel really good about sharing my story. Back in the day, gay people had to speak up and tell their story to show society they weren’t monsters from outer space. The government carried out a huge scare campaign about how we were all going to die from AIDS. I remember that so vividly and it really resonated with me about how personal stories can change our perception and shift the conversation. We are supposed to be an intelligent, educated and caring society, so why are we still listening to this archaic rhetoric about drug use that is discriminatory, factually incorrect and hinges on a scare campaign? We need personal stories about how we are all human beings that have these experiences and still function in the world.
Don, 63, is a building design consultant, life coach and dance enthusiast from Sydney. He is sharing his story as part of Unharm’s StoryLab program.
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If you have your own lived experience to share and are passionate about this issue – we’d love to hear from you, as we know that people with lived experience are the best advocates for a more compassionate approach to drug use. Click here to share your story