Earlier this week, New Orleans’ part-time assistant city attorney Jason Cantrell was in the magistrate section of criminal court talking to police officers when a marijuana joint fell from his pocket onto the floor. Cantrell was cited and issued a summons to appear in court for simple possession of marijuana.
Low level marijuana possession is decriminalized in New Orleans, which benefited Cantrell in this situation. However, the assistant city attorney is now having his reputation called into question.
According to City Hall spokesman Ryan Berni, Cantrell was suspended without pay pending an investigation. Cantrell, instead, has opted to resign from his position.
Cantrell’s wife is a candidate for a district seat on the City Council, and she is also working to protect her image as a result of her husband’s marijuana use. She released a statement which read, “I love my husband unconditionally and am very concerned for his health and well-being, and for that of our family. I hope that this incident will encourage Jason to seek professional help. I absolutely do not condone his actions.”
This situation brings a very important point to light which many are uncomfortable facing– there is no stereotypical marijuana smoker anymore. Sure, marijuana may be used by teenagers and hippies, but it is also used by grandparents, military veterans, professional athletes, teachers, doctors, and even city attorneys. Marijuana use, recreational or medicinal, is something that has penetrated the lives of tens of millions of Americans.
Should Cantrell have been smart enough to not bring marijuana into a court house? Yes. Should he have felt he had to quit his job over a joint? I don’t think so. Maybe rather than questioning this man’s reputation as a result of his marijuana use, we should be questioning what difference his marijuana use makes in his professional life. My guess would be, not much.
More and more politicians and individuals in the legal system are speaking out about their marijuana use in recent years. Earlier this week, Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl spoke out about how medical marijuana helps him manage the side effects associated with a rare form of cancer he is fighting. Before his death in July, New York state Supreme Court Judge Gustin Reichbach spoke out in favor of medical marijuana, admitting that it helped him manage pain and nausea associated with pancreatic cancer.
Living in a time of marijuana prohibition, it seems as though the lines between right and wrong, important and unimportant, become skewed. Some are finding humor in the situation, but the fact of the matter is that a man lost his job and had his reputation tarnished over a single joint.
Unfortunately, users and activists have a long road ahead of them when it comes to erasing the stigma associated with marijuana.