I might have thought David Brooks' op-ed about his past weed use in the New York Times contained some good arguments if it didn't sound exactly like every other well-meaning, moralistic, upper-middle class opinion on the subject I've ever listened to. Maybe its shared culture because David was born in Toronto, like me, but to spout these opinions is not necessarily to make incorrect observations about weed (the observations are more or less correct even though they are huge generalizations) as much as it is to profoundly overstate the negative impact marijuana has in society. In the wake of two states finally "legalizing it" recently, I feel moved to bring clarity to this debate.
I have been warned time and time again of the repercussions of marijuana use. It makes you incoherent. It makes you stupid. It makes it impossible to execute or remember exact details. It takes people with potential and turns them into lifelong apathetic burnout losers. This all may be true, and I can in fact attest to first-hand witnessing most of these conclusions. But to use them as arguments against decriminalization/legalization is missing the point. Cops, judges, and the legal system have long been arguing far and wide of the futility of status quo laws; prosecuting weed cases is simply the unsustainable and costly draining of the legal system's resources.
Remember that alcohol is a much higher stakes drug that we tolerate and sanction as acceptable when you advocate that the threat of persecution is an effective deterrent to becoming a stoner. Since general concern for the well-being of the population seems to be the driving principle behind anti-legalization arguments (it is in our best interest to keep life-long stoners to a minimum in the general population), I wonder why their focus does not turn to lives and families destroyed by alcoholism. Even though no one will deny that someone who is drunk all the time is more toxic to be around and more threatening to society than someone who is stoned all the time, there is unwillingness to address the incoherence this creates in terms of our laws. Why? Why are we so quick to judge the stoner yet cowed by the alcoholic. Maybe because we are subconsciously scared of the alcoholic - they will be more prone to violence, more likely to say vicious, hurtful things, more likely to lie, scheme, and deceive to maintain their addiction. The truth is once it reaches that point its hopeless for most of them, despite the rare and true heart-string tugging AA redemption story we hear.
Heavy duty pot use, however, is almost comical, despite potential long term damage and lingering effects. Witness the pop culture around 'bubonic chronic', the willingness of how many thousands of North American youth to put '420' in their email addresses and phone numbers so strongly their identities became wrapped up in pot use. And there are people who never outgrow it - 50+, doing bong hits in their living rooms, watching music videos, playing video games, eating pizza, fried chicken, and ice cream. It's really not as unsettling as a drunk - in fact, there is really no comparison.
Every day pot use may not be the ticket to Nobel Laureatdom or the CEOs chair, but potheads are quite harmless compared to alcoholics. In fact, every alcoholic I've ever known would be much more functional if he switched to weed exclusively. So before we get up in arms about weed availability and visibility and the impact, I can hear every conservative in the house now, on 'the children in our communities', let's remember that we are already requiring them to be perceptive and wise adults with good judgement in throwing them into a world of widespread drinking culture and the alcohol industry's marketing machine. Also recall weed is easy to find and the legal system has already made the judgement call it has better things to do. It is time to follow Washington and Colorado and get our heads out of the sand. Marijuana laws need to be brought into the 21st century, especially in a society like ours that drives so many people to drink.