Kathleen Parker: The pot-smokers’ confessional
WASHINGTON -- Everybody’s doing it—confessing their youthful, pot-smoking ways—so here goes.
I don’t remember.
Kidding, kidding. Anyone over 30 recognizes the adage: If you remember the ’60s, you weren’t there. Nyuk-nyuk-nyuk.
It is true that marijuana smoking tends to affect one’s short-term memory, but the good news is that, while stoned, one does relatively little worth remembering. At least that’s my own recollection.
So, yes, I toked, too. This doesn’t mean anyone else should, and I haven’t in decades, but our debate might have more value if more of us were forthcoming.
Would I have written this when my children were young? Probably not. I was furious when an Episcopal priest, while speaking to my son’s then-fifth-grade class about his ’60s experience, shared that he had dropped acid in college. My concern then was the same as parents’ now: If a priest (or a columnist) can drop, smoke, drink and become an accomplished adult, how do you tell your children that it’s bad for them?
And then there’s the question all parents dread: “Mom, did you ever…?”
Mom: “Absolutely not.”
The correct answer to all such questions is that any drug, including alcohol, is bad for children, hence a drinking age, even if many ignore it. Children’s brains aren’t fully formed, and kids are not yet aware of the dangers that accompany impaired judgment. Mind-altering chemicals are bad for adults, too, if abused. But adults at least can make informed choices. Besides, who knows? Maybe I was supposed to become the secretary of state.
Among columnists confessing are The New York Times’ David Brooks, who voiced his objections to legalization, and my Washington Post colleague Ruth Marcus, who noted parental concerns and her own reluctance to endorse legalization. This isn’t hypocrisy, which I embrace in the service of civilization, so much as perspectives developed through maturity and experience.
Though I respect their views and share their concerns, I come down on the other side. My long-standing position is that marijuana should be decriminalized if not made legal. Regulate and tax the tar out of it, please, but let’s stop pretending that pot consumers are nefarious denizens of the underworld. Among those who enjoy a recreational smoke are the folks selling you a house, golfing on the ninth hole and probably an editor or two here and there.
The War on Drugs (beware government domestic wars) hasn’t made a dent in the popularity of pot. Nor, after decades of common use, has it been proved to be the evil weed of “Reefer Madness.” How much better to have dedicated our resources to education and treatment rather than, through prohibition, to empowering criminals and cartels, not to mention ruining young lives with “criminal” records.
I came to this position not when I was a college student, a time when inhaling pot was a consequence of breathing the ambient air, but when I was the law-abiding, straight-arrow, tough-loving mother of a teenager. Suffice to say, I became aware that marijuana use was common among teens of all hues and stripes.
I couldn’t imagine then or now that children might be labeled criminals for behaviors that mostly required parental attention. This should not be construed to mean I recommend pot use, certainly not by minors, any more than William F. Buckley did when he concluded that it shouldn’t be illegal.
Marijuana isn’t necessarily harmless—abuse is abuse—but adults should be able to consume it without fear of legal repercussions, just as we consume alcohol. Even though today’s weed is much stronger than the stuff we used to smoke, its use is rarely as consequential as alcohol can be. Stoners might become overinvolved in the microscopic ecosystem of tree bark, but they’re unlikely to shoot up a bar over a pool game.
Brooks listed several reasons why he and his buddies quit smoking (you smoked during school, David?!). I quit because it bored me. I’m a caffeinated sort, happiest on Monday mornings when everyone is back to business and I’m on deadline. Give me coffee or give me death.
Having given up nearly everything that made getting out of bed worthwhile, I am healthier, happier, more productive—and have discovered that life is not, in fact, short. But both my current abstinence and the indulgences I once enjoyed (and may again, if my cocktail-stoop buddies have any say) were my own. My decisions, my responsibility, my consequences.
As they should be—for marijuana, as well.
Kathleen Parker is a columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.