Guest Column: A tale of two Texans seeking refuge in Colorado
My name is Colt Smith, and I’m an activist for cannabis legalization. However, I never really wanted to be.
I was born in Arlington, Tx. to two educated, loving, and supportive parents. My childhood was very normal, or as normal as one can be. My dad, a family practice physician and Sunday school teacher, is my hero. In all of my life, I have never heard my dad curse. I’ve never heard him yell or overreact to any situation he has faced. He is the most compassionate person on the face of the planet. Since I was a young boy I’ve said that if I can be half of the father he is, I’ll be the second best father in history, and that’s my goal.
When I was quite young, about five years old, my dad left for drug rehab. As a physician in the early 80s, access to narcotics was much easier than it is today. In those days, pharmaceutical representatives handed out samples of narcotics like candy.
He has told me stories about driving to a nearby dumpster with a trunk full of sample packs. There he would spend hours popping open the blister packs, saving the pills, and disposing of the packaging so that he wouldn’t have to carry around as much bulk.
I have very little memory of him during his active addiction, so the father I know is the one who is in recovery. He has reached over 25 years clean now.
My mother was a career elementary educator, recently retired. When your father is an ER physician who also has his own private practice and gives lectures to doctors about specific prescription drugs, that means most of your childhood was spent with mom.
She doesn’t have the same control that my father has. She will be loud, boisterous, and attention seeking when her needs or expectations are not met. She is usually quite productive with this behavior, but tantrums don’t always get us what we want.
Shortly after my dad left for his eleven-month stint in rehab, my mom was diagnosed as bi-polar, or manic-depressive. Her treatment included medication and talk therapy. She spent the next few years as an overtly angry person. While she never hit us, other than a few spankings that I fully deserved, her tongue was very sharp.
It wasn’t until I was 17 that she was diagnosed with clinical depression, not bi-polar disorder. This is when her treatment changed, and consequently, her behaviors, discussions, and perceptions.
My elementary and middle school years were spent caring for my mom. No other person has the ability to calm her, lessen her worries, and point out her faulty behaviors like I can. I simply don’t have the ability to let her act the way she sometimes chooses.
But this shouldn’t be the job of the young child. The relationship that my mom and I have is unique. I constantly feel my mom’s desire to think and respond more like I do than how she has for 50 years. At a young age, I became my mom’s teacher.
My high school years were a catalyst for a change within me. I was the young boy who had such a deep passion for the US Marine Corps that I had to convince my parents to send me to military school. I wanted to be the most prepared kid in boot camp at age 18.
Having found a boarding school in deep south Texas based on the customs and traditions of the Marine Corps, I suddenly knew where I belonged. While my parents had never abused me physically, I found plenty of abuse from the senior cadets at military school and found myself emulating their example as I advanced through the ranks.
At age 14 as a sophomore in high school, I was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis, chondromalatia, and plica patella syndrome. In a nutshell, it means that my knees couldn’t really catch up after two huge growth spurts in 7th and 9th grades.
Surgery was the best solution. I needed surgery in both knees eventually and then a second right knee surgery as a junior. It was after my third knee surgery that I discovered the US Marine Corps would not find me physically well enough for their service.
For the next twelve years, I was battling both pain and pain medication. Opiates were like skittles to me.
Military school is a very effective way to teach young men how to become sneaky and covert. Through my education in devious tactics, I was able to fill pain medicine prescriptions from two different doctors at the same time. I also convinced the school nurse that my doctor’s wishes included being able to take my pain medications as needed, stored in my room or on my person, instead of being scheduled at meal times. My pain pill bottles said PRN (as needed). For the next twelve years, I was battling both pain and pain medication. Opiates were like skittles to me.
Next came college and a career as a musician. I was able to play in a few nationally touring acts and an internationally touring music group. Having tried cannabis a number of times, this is when I discovered that cannabis works best for my pain. However, it does nothing to get my head lifted the way opiates do. I kept eating pain pills since the withdrawal was so taxing and difficult.
The need came for me to follow in my dad’s footsteps. I didn’t become a doctor; I entered drug rehab, going through a painful detox process, and began asking for a new way to live.
I met my wife after two years in recovery from opiates. I’m lucky that my wife has no first hand knowledge of my most shameful times.
My wife, Amanda Lin, suffers from a rare form of cataracts and intense intra-ocular pressure from a small buffet of eye problems. She has used cannabis to help her eyes for years. On our first date, this was a relief for both of us. We were two Texans who use an illegal substance, cannabis, as the best treatment for what ails us.
Shortly after our wedding, we knew that our town needed a voice for legalization. After attending a few meetings with other concerned citizens, we founded a NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) chapter in Lubbock, Tx. with the support of the other board members.
As two college students, we couldn’t afford to support the chapter on our own and successfully found over a dozen sponsors for our organization. My 30th birthday was spent at our inaugural event, a conference and music fest to support our chapter and our mission. This event was historic for Lubbock, and led to my nomination as a High Times Freedom Fighter.
As expected, this event drew attention from the local media. In an interview, I regurgitated what I had heard from a local city council member, Floyd Price.
In a meeting with him, he had the audacity to say something I’ve never heard from a prohibitionist: “I’ve never seen any studies to support this, but I want you to find them. When two marijuana users have a baby, that child is subjected to psychosis, and other mental health(problems). Marijuana messes up the chromosomes. It destroys the reproductive system, and makes the babies grow up to be crazy.”
This is the type of fight we had to deal with in Lubbock. Anyone with a rice-sized grain of cannabis knowledge knows this is total bullshit. He even started his statement by saying he has never heard of anything to support his argument. I mentioned this meeting in a few interviews to display the level of ignorance we activists must conquer.
A few weeks later, I received a phone call from my attorney saying that I’m on the District Attorney’s radar, that he’s on a mission to put me behind bars. We even had police officers knocking on our door with blatant lies about why they came. “We received a 9-1-1 call from this address, and need to come inside to make sure everything is ok.” We only have cell phones, no home phones. A 9-1-1 call from this address is not possible. Of course, I don’t let police inside my home without a warrant or an invitation from me.
“Fuck this” was my immediate reaction. My wife and I stepped down from the chapter, sold our house, and moved to Colorado in an effort to escape the close-mindedness of the good ‘ole boys society found in rural Texas.
In Colorado, we don’t have the same worries we once had in Texas. We don’t feel the need to look over our shoulders constantly in fear.
We did have to leave our friends and family at home. We left our support group. We are now in a town where we know basically no other person. We have a lonely feeling of security in Colorado, with very little support.
My first child, Leo Ray, is expected in less than seven weeks. While we do have this feeling of being alone in a crowded space, we constantly feel gratitude that we get to raise our baby boy in a state that doesn’t view us as criminals, helping to ensure his future.
Texas, get your ass in gear and start protecting those who love you. Thank you, Colorado, for being our refuge.
By: Colt Smith
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A form of this article was originally submitted to Ladybud.