David Brooks Don’t Know Dank

Talk about a misplaced, poorly thought through column. David Brooks, a man with a megaphone at one of the nation’s most important newspapers proved there is at least one subject that he has no business writing about – that would be Rastafari nugz – I mean pot, marijuana, you know… dank. Last week, the NY Times columnist wrote a seriously banal, low energy, and at the same time insidiously inconsiderate column about smoking pot.

Note: This entry is a bit of a drug policy rant. It’s opinion, not fiction and potentially not what you came here to read. Consider starting with the next entry. Hugz not drugz – JSM

Brooks is kind of the floater columnist at the Times, touching on a variety of subjects. He’s generally considered to be a conservative, who occasionally chimes in with a sensible or surprisingly progressive position. On January 2nd he struck out with a column titled “Weed: Been There Done That”

Allow me to summarize: When he was a teenager he smoked the ganj a bit – it was fun and silly. He and his posse grew out of it, not because it was bad or dangerous but because it made them feel stupid and the repetitive nature of getting blunted seemed very one-note to them. They eventually graduated to “deeper sources” of pleasure and satisfaction: “athletics, affairs of the heart, science and literature.” Now states (WA and CO) are legalizing dank, making it easier for people to chill with a spliff. Similarly, (young) people who previously might not have been inclined to partake will now give it a go. He ends with the question: Is this behavior what we want our laws and our government to be encouraging?

As Snoop Lion might say, smoke a fattie and ponder that shit, homie.

Initially considered, this argument might not seem that dumb. In the abstract, it seems like a good idea for government to encourage productive behavior, right? What’s offensive however is that the author quietly (and conveniently) omits considering the spectrum of behavior our present drug laws, notably in regard to marijuana, have produced. It’s shortsighted and myopic to opine that legalizing pot makes it more difficult to cultivate a moral citizenry, when our present draconian drug policies regularly derail the lives of millions of people. This fact is a tragedy, a waste of human potential of epic proportions and it is happening today precisely because of the laws that Brooks is pondering the benefits of in the abstract.

His opinion is evocative of one side, one perspective on the dual nature of American justice. Brooks and his friends never had to worry about getting sent down the river for their marijuana dalliances. Because they are white. That is not a luxury a black or minority young person can afford. We all know the statistics by this point; a lot of people (especially young people) blaze sticky budz oozing with resin. Smoking weed just isn’t a big deal for most of us anymore – unless you happen to be put into jail for it. Which happens all the time!

The ACLU estimates* that more than half of all drug busts are for pot and of those most of the arrests are for small amounts – most of these people aren’t kush kingpins. There were over 7 million marijuana arrests from 2000 to 2010. A black person (depending on geography) is between a 4 and 8 times more likely to be busted for marijuana possession than a white person. Considering the ramifications of coming into contact with the justice system these days that statistic is a far more serious crime than smoking some pot.

It’s not a new idea. The drug laws and our prison system in America work together to disenfranchise and marginalize minorities, simultaneously enriching the prison industry at the expense of human dignity. America’s drug policy is the modern equivalent of post civil war Jim Crow laws. The real crime is that we allow this state of affairs to continue. It’s the status quo in America. This despite the fact that apparently more than 50% of the American populace thinks stinky bud should be legal, never mind criminalized.

Legalizing the sale and use of marijuana will help improve this shameful state of normalcy. For Brooks to compare his own use to a lark, a blip on his adolescent ascension to maturity in isolation is irresponsible. What if he had been pinched for possession, got put on probation and became ineligible for student aid? I wonder how quickly he’d “graduate to more satisfying pleasures.” Also, the marijuana David Brooks smoked 30 years or so ago has very little in common with what is being consumed nowadays. The high quality of marijuana today makes escaping reality via pot a very real alternative to the misery of day-to-day poverty. I’m not saying it’s right or healthy or wise. It’s just understandable.

Perhaps I judge the man too harshly. Perhaps his column space is best utilized by pondering a utopian ideal where we are all given the opportunity to realize our greatest potential, aided by the enforcement of arcane laws regarding marijuana. But then again maybe not. A dude with a megaphone as big as his should at least take a second to consider all the harm caused by the current state of affairs. The column feels ill conceived when so many are denied the same opportunities he had because of the law’s intolerance for pot.

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