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A conviction is for life

Silhouette of a man

Barry (not his real name) is a 46-yearold professional who works in sales for a multinational technology company. The consequences of a youthful drug conviction continue to have profound and unfortunate impacts on his life.

So what were the circumstances that led to your getting a drug conviction?

I got into sales because I’ve always liked to talk – some would argue I never know when to shut up! And it’s funny, you know, because that attribute has really been beneficial to me in building my career – but it was also my big mouth that led to me getting a drug conviction.

It was a Friday night in small town 80s New Zealand. I was 17, I’d left school at 15 and basically gone to a party that, two years later, I hadn’t really left. My only real interests in life at that time were punk rock music and getting high with my mates.

We’d been drinking vodka and popping Valium and, after a suitable period of preloading, had staggered down to the local teen venue to try our luck with the girls.

We were pretty messed up I guess, and a scowling bouncer announced in no uncertain terms that we were not getting in.

One of my friends took exception to this refusal – a knife materialised and was waved around theatrically. Eventually, calmer heads prevailed, and we turned tail and trudged off muttering menacing sentiments under our breath.

Well, of course, the cops arrived to search my friend, and after finding the knife on his person, they showed him the back of a paddy wagon.

That would have been it, too, if I hadn’t felt the need to get lippy with the cops about living in a Police state. Next thing you know I’m also being searched.

Go ahead, you won’t find anything on me, I’d said.

One second later, the cop’s got a big grin on his face as he’s got a dope pipe I’d totally forgotten about from my top pocket, and I’m joining my friend in the paddy wagon.

Were you worried about gaining a drug conviction?

No, I wasn’t worried at all, in my drug and testosterone-saturated adolescent mind. It was all just a naughty game, taking on authority, rebellion, all that juvenile stuff. I didn’t have any concept of growing up, I didn’t even rate my chances of making it to 20, so the idea of a drug conviction having an impact on my life just wasn’t there.

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