AT 8 A.M. Oct. 20, Marine Corps veteran Mike Whiter became the first person in Philadelphia to get a citation under the city's decriminalization ordinance after he lit up a joint in the courtyard of City Hall.
Whiter, who served 11 years in the Marines and did two combat tours, one in Kosovo and one in Iraq, said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and was prescribed more than 40 pills - from Valium to morphine - over a five-year period by Veterans Affairs doctors. The pills turned him into a "zombie" who didn't leave the house, he said.
Then, one day, while watching the National Geographic Channel, he saw a program about medical marijuana.
"I thought, 'What the hell, I might as well try this out,' " he said. "So I did and I haven't looked back."
Whiter, 38, said pot got him off all the pills and saved his life. He started to advocate for the drug and began a Facebook page called Pennsylvania Veterans for Medical Marijuana.
"The medications really, really numbed me. I didn't feel anything. I didn't cry. I didn't laugh. I just sat there," he said. "Emotions are vital to living. That's part of the human experience. Marijuana enhances my emotions."
Once a date was set for the new ordinance to go into effect, Whiter set up a meeting with two police supervisors to let them know he planned to light up a doobie at City Hall on Oct. 20.
Whiter said the cops let him take two hits before they told him to put it out.
"I dropped it on the ground, stepped on it and that was that," he said.
Whiter paid the citation and now it's in his bedroom, along with a federal citation from a "Smoke Down" on Independence Mall.
He plans to scrapbook them one day.
"I did it to prove a point," he said. "Just to go out there and say, 'Yesterday, I would have gone to jail for this. Today, I can smoke my medicine at City Hall and walk away with a $100 ticket.' "
Whiter said he's openly smoked marijuana in the city since then, but hasn't been cited. He said he will continue to smoke publicly for himself - and other veterans.
"I don't care about the law. I will willingly break the law in order to help other veterans with PTSD," he said. "I smoke marijuana because it helps me and if they can't see that, I'll make them see it."
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