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A life derailed – one man’s effort to get up after going down

  • Written by CNN
  • Published in News

nick-600Getting arrested for marijuana possession cost 31-year-old Nick Smith of Austin, Texas his driver's license. For the past three years, he's had to ride the bus to work.

It takes him 45 minutes to get there. Driving would take 15.

Recently, Smith got an occupational license that lets him drive to work. It cost him $250 and a court appearance to get it.

Not being able to drive meant he couldn't take his daughter, Sydney, to daycare or to doctor's appointments. That's been frustrating for his girlfriend, Danyell Stanley.

"When there's things that need to be done for (Sydney)," Stanley says, "I have to be the one responsible for her."

Altogether, Smith has spent three months in jail for having marijuana. He estimates he's spent more than $10,000, between fines, court costs, fees and lawyers' bills. One stint in jail cost him his job at a fast food restaurant.

"I come back to Austin and they told me 'we couldn't keep your job, we had to hire somebody else,'" he said. "And I'm like dang, here I am back to square one, no job, no income."

Smith is a musician. But he's had to give up performing, because not having a license made it too hard to get to rehearsals and shows. Last year, Smith bought his dream car, a 1971 Cadillac Coupe Deville. He didn't think he'd be able to drive it until 2014.

Smith is trying to get his life together. He's had his current job, at the Texas Workforce Commission, for three years now.

And he and his family recently moved in with his mother, to save money.

But he'll be paying for his arrests for years to come. Texas charges hundreds of dollars in administrative fees.

"It'd go to (formula) and diapers and wipes," Smith said. "Yeah, (Sydney) would eat that up."

(Nick Smith's story is featured in "The War on Marijuana in Black and White: Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biased Arrests," which the American Civil Liberties Union says is the first-ever report to examine nationwide state and county marijuana arrest data by race.)


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