It wasn’t easy. Travelling abroad never is. That is why it is so compelling and why it teaches one so much. While it may sound like an opportunity you wouldn’t turn away, committing to a trip like this was difficult. I had to give up control over my life for two full weeks. For a control freak, that is not easy. I had to relinquish control over what I would eat, what time I would go home, my schedule for the day and how I would get from point A to point B. For a control freak mom, I also had to relinquish control of my household and my kids to my very capable and supportive husband. As I arrive at the end of this journey, I am proud that I stayed strong throughout. I stayed strong as I faced the stress, anxiety and guilt over leaving my family and work behind for two weeks. I stayed strong throughout this adventure and allowed myself to lean into the experience. I had countless eye-opening experiences from trying pig blood and noodles to visiting a drug rehabilitation center in the middle of Kuala Lumpur and to talking with people of Islamic faith about Denver’s experience with the legalization of marijuana.
The picture below is from Pengasih, a beautiful little oasis in the middle of bustling Kuala Lumpur. It is an in-patient drug rehabilitation center with a title that means “Loving Person”. They were very interested in hearing about what Denver has seen from legalizing marijuana as they are one of the few places in Malaysia that treats drug addiction as a public health and human rights issue. As a regulator and policy developer, I provide a very neutral viewpoint on the issue of marijuana legalization and just share my perspectives on what the impact has been for Denver and how we’ve approached implementation of such a large shift in policy. However, with Malaysia on the opposite end of the spectrum than Denver when it comes to drug policies, this experience opened my eyes to see that marijuana legalization, and the work we do as regulators, can also be a fight for human rights and public health. This gives me a whole new perspective to the work I do day-in and day-out.
I am very thankful to everybody that allowed me this opportunity. From ICMA to my co-workers and the City of Denver, from my family and friends to all the people I met throughout these last two weeks, and of course to my wonderful host, Samantha. I am so glad that I stayed strong and jumped into this unexpected journey. I will be unraveling the lessons learned for weeks and months to come.