With all the other nonsense going on in this country, it's amazing (but of course expected) that anyone with other things to do would find the time to denounce Colorado's legal marijuana experiment. (See: The Great Marijuana Experiment: A Tale of Two Drugs Wars, from our current issue.)
Yet here they come, luminaries like MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, publishing mogul Tina Brown, and Yale blowhard-in-residence David Brooks, all hot to build a Wall of Decency around the New American Menace. They are the 21st-century version of the Anti-Saloon League, gathering now to denounce the perils of the legal recreational joint.
Brown put it this way, in a tweet:
. . . legal weed contributes to us being a fatter, dumber, sleepier nation even less able to compete with the Chinese
Right. Because marijuana, not China's bottomless supply of slave labor, is what's responsible for the West's growing trade imbalance.
Scarborough also went the "pot makes you stupid" route, although he essentially admitted to achieving that intellectual distinction himself without the benefit of even trying the drug:
I mean, seriously, it just makes you dumb. Pot just makes you dumb . . . [Although] never once did I say, 'Hey man, that looks like something I want to do . . .'
Brooks, predictably, made legalization, like pretty much everything else he writes about, a sign of America's ongoing moral collapse. He also admitted to smoking pot in his youth, and although this is hard to imagine, he even claimed he had fun doing it. Here's the "Before" part of his column:
For a little while in my teenage years, my friends and I smoked marijuana. It was fun. I have some fond memories of us all being silly together. I think those moments of uninhibited frolic deepened our friendships.
And here's the "after." Note the unironic use of the hilariously pretentious term "moral ecology":
In legalizing weed, citizens of Colorado are, indeed, enhancing individual freedom. But they are also nurturing a moral ecology in which it is a bit harder to be the sort of person most of us want to be.
I think all of us who have smoked marijuana will admit that it's a drug that doesn't bring out one's inner Einstein. That said, nobody is dumber, or more that matter more dangerous, than a drunk, and we long ago realized that we had to make alcohol legal.
That's because the legalization question, whether about pot or alcohol, is never really a referendum on the drugs in question. It's much more a referendum on prohibition, which didn't work with an extremely dangerous, addictive and destructive drug like alcohol, and makes even less sense with marijuana.
The Brooks column is particularly infuriating because in just a few hundred words it perfectly captures why marijuana needs to be legalized. Here's this grasping, status-obsessed yuppie who first admits that that he smoked an illegal drug without consequence in his youth, then turns around and tells us, as a graying and bespectacled post-adult, that it would be best if the drug remained illegal for the masses.
Would David Brooks feel the same way about drug laws if he was one of the hundreds of thousands of Americans arrested in weed-related incidents every year (it was over 700,000 people in 2012)? If he'd been prevented from getting a student loan or getting a state job because of such a bust? If he'd lost a professional license, or had his property seized, or even had a child taken away from him?
We'll never know, because by and large, people like David Brooks, or me for that matter, don't suffer serious consequences for weed arrests. Most people who get busted on pot charges are non-white and from poor neighborhoods: In the Bloomberg years, there were as many as 50,000 pot arrests a year in New York City, the overwhelming majority of which were black or Hispanic people. Brooks should ask himself how sending people to sit in Rikers on weed charges (I've met such people) reflects upon our "moral ecology," especially when it's almost guaranteed that the cops who sent that person there also smoked pot in high school and/or college.
Meanwhile, your typical well-heeled white kid blazes up unapologetically throughout his or her school years, and may even spend much of that time tooling around the country watching Phish concerts and pounding Chex Mix with eyes glazed over in open worship of weed culture. And he or she generally never gets in serious trouble.
Later this same youngster often leaves school, ditches the tie-dye in favor of a bunch of V-neck sweaters from Barney's, and spends the rest of life from mid-twenties on trying to become respectable – he or she hopes in the end to maybe become a New York Times columnist, or a Senator or a Governor or the Vice-President or President of the United States, at which point past marijuana use is quietly excused.
This career path is allowed in places where the police are not encouraged to go rampaging through dorm rooms or asked to do random pocket checks of all pedestrians as a matter of course – you'll never see a stop-and-frisk in the Hamptons. Therefore people who grow up in these environments tend to look at the legalization issue solely through the lens of, "Well, all we're doing by making it legal is telling kids that it's okay."
No, actually, by making it legal, we're deciding that letting people get high is a lesser evil compared to a person's life being derailed forever by a pointless and intrinsically hypocritical marijuana arrest. But Brooks/Brown/Scarborough wouldn't know anything about that, apparently.