Dig Baton Rouge

IN EXILE

By Nick BeJeaux

Joshua Havens smokes marijuana—and often. As Louisiana’s lawmakers converge on BR for lawgiving, he is once again making a push to legalize pot in the Bayou State.

This year, there are three bills on the subject of marijuana up for debate during the Legislative Session, but Havens says none of them address the issue like the constitutional amendment he drafted on his own: Amendment 28.

One just legalizes it, and the other two don’t give anything back to the people or apply retroactively, and they all have huge loopholes,” said Havens. “Jindal has already said he will wipe out deregulation, and the other two have no framework at all for regulation. Amendment 28 does not provide the answer to this issue, but it provides a comprehensive framework for a solution. They can work out the specifics later, I just want them to consider it.”

Havens said that his amendment is based on a similar piece of legislation authored by Mark Pederson of the Cannabis Patient Network Institute, but there are several key differences that he says make the bill common sense.

Mark’s bill distinguishes marijuana as food—it was very non-regulative. But mine keeps it as a recreational/medical substance,” he said. “After talking with him for a long time about my bill, he’s come to approve of it because the money it makes goes right back to the people.”

One of the many ways money will go back to the public through this amendment is the creation and funding of a disaster relief bill.

After Katrina hit, utilities became very expensive with hurricane taxes, surcharges and all that,” said Havens. “Can you imagine if that money was directed toward disaster relief? This bill does that. All the money this bill makes will go to a fund capped at $50 million—anything over that goes back to the people with their state tax return.”

Havens added that this return of funds, along with jobs created by a new industry in Louisiana, would lower the cost of living in Louisiana and improve the economy.

As of press time, the legislature is not considering Amendment 28, despite Havens’ best efforts to speak with them about it. He says that the most frustrating part of this situation is that, as a citizen, he is apparently unable to influence the decisions that shape his life.

“All these people who enforce these laws upon me cannot explain how I cannot file a grievance with the state, or even this amendment,” he said. “If I can’t stand up and file a grievance or introduce laws to make my life better, my rights are being violated.”

To understand why Havens is upset, you have to take a look at his past. A native of Monroe, Havens graduated with honors and served in ROTC and in the Marine Corps after that for well over a year before his circumstances took a disillusioning and defeating turn.

I signed up for the Marines, went through boot camp and made it through MOS [Military Occupational Specialty] as a computer tech; but after that, the brotherhood that I was promised wasn’t there,” he said. “I don’t like to talk about what I walked into when I set foot in my barracks. It was an utter disgrace—my fleet was nothing but drug addicts and alcoholics.”

In an interview with DIG, Havens refused to say what base he was stationed on when this happened, or name any of his bunkmates. But he did open up about an incident that happened there some years ago; the one that set him on the path he walks today.

One night, I heard a knock on my door,” he said. “I opened it and there was this kid, strung out on meth, holding a bag of methamphetamine. He asked me to get rid of it, so I flushed it. Well, after he had sobered up he was angry that I flushed his drugs, so he and four or five of his buddies came to my room and beat the crap out of me.”

Havens said that he felt his attackers, his own brothers in arms, meant to kill him. He managed to get away and lock himself in a broom closet and there he hid for six hours. It took four marines to get him out. After recovering, he wasn’t physically attacked again, but he started receiving death threats. Eventually, he decided he’d had enough.

Havens received an Other Than Honorable Conditions Discharge—not good, not bad— after speaking up the abuse but his problems didn’t end there.

I’ve had a lot of trouble interacting with people since then, and it wasn’t long before I was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia and taking 13 pills a day,” he said. “All I was doing then was staring at the wall and drooling; I wasn’t enjoying life at all. So I went to rehab to get off the pills, and it was there that I was diagnosed with PTSD.”

After getting out of rehab, Havens, who at this point had liver damage from the amount of medication he was on before his diagnosis, was given more pills. He became depressed after he realized that his current treatment was no better than the last—until he heard about new treatment programs in Colorado.

When I got here, the doctors had no trouble diagnosing me with a mood disorder. He said. “The wrote me prescription for medical marijuana, and as long as I take my medication I can function very well, without drooling. Three years ago, there was no way in hell I would speak with someone on the phone, even with the meds, but here we are.”

Havens currently lives in a hotel room with his wife in Colorado Springs. It’s from there he continues his activism for Louisiana in hopes that one day he can return home and be healthy. But while his prescription would be protected under federal law, there is no safe way to access his medication in Louisiana, and bringing it in from Colorado is still very much illegal.

Living here is almost like living in a jail cell, but I’d prefer this to living in Louisiana,” he said. “I wish it didn’t have to be like that, but I’m just being honest. And I’m not the only one who can’t go home because of this issue; that’s all I want is to be home and be healthy.”

Editor’s Note: Joshua Havens’ personal views are not affiliated with DIG Magazine. For more information on Amendment 29 and current marijuana laws, visit mj4la.com.

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