By Doug Fine
“I can find another job, but I’m not going back to pharmaceuticals.”
As it has with thousands of PTSD patients nationwide, cannabis gave 32-year-old Augustine Stanley his life back. Already a decorated veteran, already the youngest Lieutenant at New Mexico’s Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center, he could survive IEDs in Iraq and prison gang member sequestration cells in Albuquerque. But it looks iffy whether his promising, unblemished career will survive a urine test.
Stanley led the team of corrections officers that handles the highest risk inmates in the Albuquerque area – not just violent criminals, but people at risk to themselves. “I was interviewing for promotion to Captain,” he told me. “I don’t even have a disciplinary file. Then last September I failed a urine test.”
This is, sadly and temporarily, not a unique case of what happens in the final days of cannabis prohibition when a patient who works in a “drug”-tested position and his family choose his well-being over even his livelihood and obligation to support, in Stanley’s case, his four kids. And when you talk to this local boy, he makes no bones about one truth: cannabis was and is a life-or-death necessity for him. Otherwise he would never have threatened a career that had logged 13 years toward a lucrative 20-year retirement plan.
In a steady, non-emotional voice, Stanley told me, “The Xanax (alprazolam anti-anxiety pharmaceutical) I was prescribed (after a traumatic tour in Iraq in 2005) just deepened my depression. I was a worse person to be around. I’d take even half the prescribed amount and fall asleep on the couch. I think of that time and the word that comes to mind is zombie.”