David Brooks lit up the Internet today (sorry) with his column on marijuana legalization, “Weed: Been There. Done That,” in which he admits to once being young. “For a little while in my teenage years, my friends and I smoked marijuana. It was fun,” he wrote. “I have some fond memories of us all being silly together. I think those moments of uninhibited frolic deepened our friendships.” But then he grew up: “I don’t have any problem with somebody who gets high from time to time, but I guess, on the whole, I think being stoned is not a particularly uplifting form of pleasure and should be discouraged more than encouraged.”
The argument sparked (sorrrrry) countless responses, from jeers to serious rebuttals, but more than anything it gave otherwise straitlaced pundits and reporters — Thought Leaders, you might call them — a chance to get personal with their weed stories. Some offered their experiences, and how it colors their views on decriminalization or legalization, in their own pieces; others we asked, and a few even responded. Their stories, which are not endorsements, are below.
Glenn Greenwald, journalist:
Yes, I’ve smoke marijuana — mostly in college, where my usage rate was probably pretty typical for college students, and then also periodically throughout adulthood, though with very decreasing frequency as I get older, mostly because I just don’t enjoy it that much anymore. I don’t remember the last time I did: it’s been quite a while.
Of course, one’s personal experience with anything makes it much harder for others to demonize it effectively. So I’m sure that my personal experiences back then with marijuana affect my views on legalization to some degree, as I’m convinced it’s far less harmful and dangerous than lots of legal substances, including alcohol.
That said, I view the entire Drug War as one of America’s worst sins, if not its singularly worst evils, and particularly find the idea of putting people into cages to punish them for the substances they ingested (marijuana or anything else) to be unspeakably cruel, wasteful and irrational.
Actual confession: I smoke pot. I’ve never bought it, but I’ve had it when friends bring it out to enliven a party. Frankly, I’m a terrible pothead. Having never really smoked cigarettes, I’m all thumbs at lighting a pipe or joint. The last time I smoked, earlier this week, the product overcame the wan barriers of my tolerance and I passed out on a kitchen floor—actually a pretty excellent goodbye-to-the-old-year metaphor, though somewhat embarrasing at the time. (UPDATE: Should note that the time before this, pot was part of a lovely evening of conversation and record-playing. It’s like any other drug, and the experiences vary.)
Josh Barro, politics editor at Business Insider:
Lately I only smoke marijuana a few times a year. I smoked it for the first time in high school and smoked more regularly when I was in college.
The period of my life when I smoked weed most regularly was the summer of 2003. I spent that summer as a participant in the Charles G. Koch Summer Fellow program, which put 40 libertarian college and grad students together in the same apartment complex in Northern Virginia for 10 weeks, reading Hayek and interning at right-of-center policy organizations. We smoked a lot of weed; I smoked up several times a week through most of the summer. One time, my Koch roommates and I built a gravity bong, which I don’t recommend; that led to one of the few times in my life that I got so high I felt ill.
I don’t smoke as much as I used to in part because my friends smoke less, and in part because I don’t live in a dorm anymore. I’m not going to smoke marijuana alone, and usually if I’m meeting up with my friends it’s out at a bar or restaurant or some other place where smoking up would be inappropriate. But I still like weed. It provides a relaxing and mild drug experience (gravity bong situation excepted).
Obviously, some people have more negative experiences with marijuana than I do. I’ve known some people who were less ambitious and productive (and, ultimately, happy) because of their marijuana use. But that’s a risk with any drug, and a much bigger risk with alcohol than with marijuana.
Prohibition imposes enormous costs on society and individuals in an effort to reduce those negative social effects, and those costs fall disproportionately on the sort of people who do not have columns in the New York Times. Also, and this tends to get lost in the debate, prohibition imposes costs on people who would simply like to engage in their non-problem marijuana use for fun. We recognize that one of the costs of banning alcohol is that people like drinking alcohol and it’s bad (all else equal) to stop people from doing things they like. The fact that marijuana is fun for a lot of people is actually one of the most compelling arguments for legalizing it.
At the risk of exposing myself as not the total fuddy-duddy of my children’s dismissive imaginings, I have done my share of inhaling, though back in the age of bell-bottoms and polyester.
Next time I’m in Colorado, I expect, I’ll check out some Bubba Kush. Why not? They used to warn about pot being a gateway drug, but the only gateway I’m apt to be heading through at this stage is the one to Lipitor.
Still, widespread legalization is a bad idea, if an inevitable development.