Who are criminals and who are you

We should all think long and hard about branding a person for life because it is not right nor is it fair. The phrase “you need to walk a mile or two in their shoes” truly applies to this subject matter because it offers true wisdom for one to live by, especially when faced with the adversities of decision making about a person or people. I’m sure family members don’t see or refer to their relative who was a criminal at one time as still being “a criminal” and more than likely they would resent others calling their relative a criminal. When it’s your child or family member, one can easily forgive and forget but the real character and even a moral challenge is to forgive a stranger.

There are literally millions who have left their criminal behavior behind and became productive citizens of society but we don’t hear about them unless they become famous like Don King, the boxing promoter. But when I was the education administrator and only teacher at the juvenile facility, I was able to get the first ever inmate to graduate high school while in prison in the CNMI. Now this kid was a criminal when he was out doing wrong, but where do we draw the line for calling him a criminal? Can we truly call him a criminal today or even 5, 10, 15, or 20 years from now when he has never committed any more criminal acts since his release from prison? For me, the criminal label should be removed the moment they are completely free of their obligations to society. Are we not supposed to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? And “let him who has not sinned cast the first stone.” Every Catholic person should know who said that!

Forgiveness is a pinnacle trait of people in the Christian faith and with other religions and even among atheist. There have been people who have lost their loved one to a murderer but they stand up in court and tell that person “I forgive you” because that is what Christ did as an example for us all and it is one of the best ways to move on with their life or it would be a life filled with anger and hate to serve no means or just end in misery. Forgiveness is truly a test of one’s character and if we can’t forgive our own people so they can help with the implementation and operations of the cannabis industry in the CNMI, it will be a catastrophic before we even start the cannabis industry.

I am also still wondering what a person’s criminal record has to do with the cultivation and the operations of the cannabis industry. I can understand a person’s record coming into play if they have a criminal history of sex crimes and working with children or if it’s an armed marijuana enforcement officer but this is about growing marijuana, controlling and governing over the industry, not about a job in criminal justice, TSA or the FBI and there are no children involved. What does requiring a person to have a clean record really prove about their future actions? Nothing! People do change for the better. We have all seen a lieutenant governor, senators, congressmen, many public servants, professionals and even clergy with clean records who ended up being criminals, so maybe we should pay a bit more attention to those with a clean record to make sure they don’t become a criminal.

The CNMI is already struggling with a labor challenge and CWs can’t work in the cannabis industry so we need these people with a record and the good part is they don’t even need to be trained as they are the most knowledgeable people in the CNMI on marijuana. The cannabis industry is a “self-starting” industry, meaning we must start our industry with the marijuana we already have growing and guess who is growing it and who has the best strains of marijuana in the CNMI? Yes, the people with a criminal past. I have studied the CNMI’s underground marijuana market and many of the local cultivators have gotten into trouble before. The necessary minimum of 100 different strains of good quality and quantity of marijuana and products are needed to even start the industry. We can’t bring in marijuana and seeds so we are stuck with what we have to start the industry so where are we going to get our supply from?

Colorado is already facing a class action for trying to use a person’s criminal record to prevent them from involvement in the cannabis industry. It’s a violation of federal equal opportunity law plus Colorado is violating federal law by legalizing it! A criminal record has no place in the cannabis industry unless they are an armed enforcement officer because it is federal firearms law. So when trying to impose a restriction on people with a record that will deny people the opportunity at the American dream, one must look in the mirror and to see who are you! Do you truly believe that people can change and not be a criminal for life or are you an unforgiving and prejudicial person playing demigod who damns a person as a criminal for life? We should not look down on a person because of their past as the true challenge is for all of us to just be human and humane in the way we view people.

Ambrose M. Bennett
Kagman, Saipan

Ambrose M. Bennett Author

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