The very idea of David Brooks getting stoned when he was a teenager makes me giggle like I’m one toke over the line, sweet Jesus.
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.
Oh, but now that he’s an adult and responsible, he doesn’t think it should be legal to smoke pot.
So, like the vast majority of people who try drugs, we aged out. We left marijuana behind. 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.
Laws profoundly mold culture, so what sort of community do we want our laws to nurture? What sort of individuals and behaviors do our governments want to encourage? I’d say that in healthy societies government wants to subtly tip the scale to favor temperate, prudent, self-governing citizenship. In those societies, government subtly encourages the highest pleasures, like enjoying the arts or being in nature, and discourages lesser pleasures, like being stoned.
Aside from the fact that this sort of argument flies in the face of the glibertarian philosophy that wants to keep government out of meddling in the private pleasures of the populace (unless, of course, you’re gay or a woman making decisions about her own body), the “societies” Mr. Brooks is promoting only exist in the country clubs where Johnnie Walker Blue Label is on the rocks and someone has just excused themselves to the powder room to take another Prozac.
In his recollection Mr. Brooks doesn’t tell us if he and his friends ever got busted for smoking weed. Given his background and skin color, chances are that if he had, he would have been given a stern talking-to from the constabulary, a Nancy Reagan “Just Say No” video, and turned over to his parents. Unlike a poor black kid who did the same thing, he would not have served time in jail and been branded for life with a felony conviction.
That’s the real crime. The use of marijuana among African-Americans and whites is roughly same, but the disparity of punishment for drug use is astounding. So while youthful David Brooks and his buddies got baked while listening to Grand Funk Railroad and staring at their hand, knowing the worst thing that could happen to them was being grounded, black kids were being sent to Rikers Island and swallowed up.
Being lectured on the evils of weed by some white middle class busybody because “in healthy societies government wants to subtly tip the scale to favor temperate, prudent, self-governing citizenship” is just plain stupid. Tell the guy serving five years for possession just how “subtle” this government can be. It also makes me wonder what Mr. Brooks was drinking when he wrote this drivel.