It Ain’t All Bad: Dose of Dopamine, Volume 5

After a wonderful March for Science weekend, it’s time to continue our trend of thinking about the great difference-makers in the world and recognizing their work in improving the lives of those around them.

Shon Hopwood’s story sounds like it’s been ripped straight from a movie. After growing up in a small town in Nebraska and losing a basketball scholarship for continuously missing class, he enlisted in the Navy. After completing two years of service, Hopwood found himself back in Nebraska, depressed, looking for a means to live while working at a farm. After going out to a bar with his friend, it was suggested they rob a bank. The bandits made out with $50,000, but Hopwood, unlike his friend, didn’t stop there. He went on to rob four more banks before being arrested and sentenced to eleven years in federal prison. Hopwood worked at a law library in prison, developing an appetite for legal practice. After successfully reducing a fellow inmates’ sentence by over ten years, he began to write more briefs and letters, essentially running a legal center out of prison. Shortly after his release, Hopwood was offered a scholarship covering tuition and fees at the University of Washington, later surprising his parole officer by showing up one day, not for check-in, but for work at the clerk’s office. Now he’s about to start a job as an associate professor at Georgetown University. He cites his success as part of his ability to see the other side of the law, something most lawyers never experience. Despite being offered $400,000 a year to work for a high-profile law firm, Hopwood has his eye on changing the criminal justice system by eliminating federal mandatory sentencing.

The Girl Scouts of America has a new troop in New York City with a unique characteristic: its members are all homeless. All existing troops in New York’s five boroughs have troop numbers in the 1000s through the 5000s, but together with the Department of Homeless Services and organizer Giselle Burgess, a single mother who’s been without a home since August, the Girl Scouts of America is covering expenses for Troop 6000, including uniforms. “We’re all Girl Scout sisters,” a scout named Karina told the Today Show. “We’re all a pack. And if you see a girl with 6000 on, it just makes you like, we’ve gone through the same thing or you’re still going through it.”

Smart policy ideas are smart policy ideas, whether it’s an inexpensive way of giving homeless girls a community, or a means to fund their education in the future. In Colorado, taxes from marijuana sales are helping college students pay for school and helping to fund scholarships. This, coupled with a report that indicates the recreational marijuana industry will overtake manufacturing by 2020, shows that tax revenue from marijuana sales will be substantial enough to enhance communities. Streets are being repaved, as well as government facilities and city halls after a $200 million tax influx from marijuana sales last year.

Meanwhile, in Utah something else is becoming legal. Bizarrely, before State Bill 81, Utah police could prosecute minors for selling lemonade. The bill prevents police from stopping minors from selling lemonade or operating any other business in what might be known as the most common sense move of 2017 thus far. However, two minors had their stand shut down in Texas for failing to obtain or hold a permit. In New Jersey two teenagers were prevented from shoveling snow because they lacked a solicitation permit, and an Oregon girl was prevented from selling mistletoe at a Christmas market for similar reasons. At least we’ve got Utah!

In addition to common sense in Utah, it seems common decency has prevailed in Wisconsin. At an anti-Trump protest, Ana Draa held her tax sign up demanding the president release his tax returns next to an older gentleman who held his sign up demanding that Planned Parenthood be defunded. Being an advocate for women’s rights and autonomy, Draa disagreed with her neighbor, but noted that he was courteous and respectful throughout. When he fell ill, he offered to hold her anti-Trump sign while she ran to get Ibuprofen for him. As she turned and moved away she heard the thud of the man hitting the floor and rushed back to help him. A reporter asked Draa why she did it and she brilliantly responded, “Wouldn’t you? … He’s an old man. He felt the power of his convictions and he was very respectful. We need to respect and value the humanity in each other.” Just because we disagree doesn’t mean we lose our humanity. Humanity prevailed, as did common sense.