Reader Request 2005: Pot!

David Graham asks:

What I’d be interested in is your feelings on marijuana and how that has changed since you’ve had a child and grown older? I’m 24 at the moment and personally I don’t use it but my fiancé and friends do use it.

Well, without going into Lifetime TV Movie detail about it, it was made pretty clear to me early on that neither side of my family could handle addictive subtances at all, and this had the effect of both making me a lifelong teetotaler in terms of drugs — I dislike even taking aspirin, which is not exactly logical — and of making me somewhat unnecessarily paranoid about casual drug use when I was younger. So when I was (much) younger and you were to toke up in front of me, I’d’ve been worried that a week later you’d be blowing total strangers for your smack cash, and casing me out to see how much you could get for my internal organs on the black market. Naturally, one has to get beyond that sort of thinking if one wants to have any sort of friends at all in high school and college. I got over it in no small part because friends of mine who toked up in fact did not suddenly become drug-addled experts in fencing stolen microwaves.

These days my opinion about marijuana and other recreational drug use is somewhat more relaxed. I still think it’s stupid, and you won’t catch me doing it. But then lots of people do lots of stupid things, and they still manage to get through the day with their brain intact. Overdoing pot is no damn good — pot’s big thrill is that it lops 25% off your processing power and makes you enjoy it, so being chronically loaded means that you’re also chronically stupider and more apathetic than you should be, and that’s not an optimal way to experience life, shall we say — but as for the occasional toke here and there, eh, who cares.

As for whether we should legalize pot: I’m not going to go out of my way personally to spearhead the effort, but sure, why not. A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece for the Willamette Weekly arguing that we should legalize pot because doing so would kill off the entirely asinine pothead culture, and that could only be seen as a good thing. The potheads were of course outraged, and thus I became perhaps the only person ever protested by the pro-legalization folks for arguing for making pot legal. As you might expect, I found this almost unbearably amusing.

I will say this: I do tend to see recreational drug use as a young person’s activity, something you experiment with, usually in college, while you’re trying to figure out what’s going on your life. In this respect it’s not unlike joing the College Socialist Society for a quarter in your freshman year or engaging in occasional dormitory bisexuality. Eventually it all gets lumped under the catchall “experimentation” excuse, and then you don’t have to worry about whether it’ll come back to haunt you when you’re running for that city council seat.

Now, in the course of your experimentation, you find that you really are a socialist or bisexual, well, that’s fine, obviously. For some people, the experiment is going to take. But if in the course of your experimentation you find that you really like your recreational drugs, you might want to think about that. It’s one thing to be 23 and baked to the gills. When you’re 35 and spending a significant amount of time skorfing primo British Canadian cannabis out of an improvised honey bear bong (just like Brad Pitt in True Romance), you look an ass. And if you’re any older than that, you damn well better have glaucoma. The older you get, the less getting bombed should be a cornerstone of your life, no matter what your drug of choice would be for that.

(The exception to this: Tobacco/nicotine, which I give older people a pass on because they started using in an era which more or less promoted its use. Young people today, on the other hand, have absoutely no excuse. I look at younger people who smoke and think: There goes one stupid person.)

I also make a qualitative difference between pot and other more hardcore drugs, like coke and speed. If you’re occasionally toking up, that’s value-neutral to me. But you know, no one just takes a little coke now and then, do they. Likewise, no one pinging around filled with crystal meth is a casual user. Spend a lot of time with the hard stuff and you shouldn’t expect to see too much of me around. I’m judgemental that way.

28 thoughts on “Reader Request 2005: Pot!

  1. I am amazed at how much that sounds like me. If there can be anything good from having addictive type relatives is that you learn you DON’T want to be like that.

    I was against Legalization up until a few years ago. Now I am starting to realize how expensive the war on drugs is and I would be willing to give legalization a try to see if the savings justifies the intellectual drain on society. I would add one requirement to legalization. Private business should have the absolute right to refuse to hire or terminate employees if they have a company policy forbidding drug use.

  2. Pot’s biggest danger is that it makes you happy to have pot. I’ve seen too many friends who are satisfied with their life, merely because they’ve got weed. They’ve got a minimum wage job, a crappy apartment in a crappy part of town, and their love life is in limbo because they can’t work up the energy to actually do things. But it’s all okay, because they make just enough money to keep themselves in food and pot, and pot makes you happy to just have pot.

    That being said, as a competitive person, I would like to encourage everybody who might be entering the legal profession in the next couple of years to experiment with pot. I’m sure you’ll avoid the negative aspects. C’mon, everyone else is doing it. :)

    K

  3. I don’t know. Having done pot a few times, I found it to be much like alcohol, in effect and longevity. And since its not very addictive, I really don’t see a problem using it, much like alcohol. So much like an employer really can’t fire you for having the occasional drink, they really shouldn’t be able to can you for lighting up the occasional joint. If it starts interfering with your work, then yes, of course, fire the bastard.

  4. Matt said: “And since its not very addictive, I really don’t see a problem using it, much like alcohol.”

    Since when is alcohol considered to be ‘not very addictive’? Seems rather contrary to what I’ve heard (and witnessed) for many years.

    It sounds like you’re taking a very specific case (yourself) and applying to to everyone else. An employer has every right to fire anyone for any reason they see fit. Whether it’s drugs, laziness, or even nose-picking. It’s the employer’s choice who they want working for them. If they don’t want someone that smokes pot working for them, so be it. And, technically, an employer COULD fire someone for having the occasional drink. It’s up to the employer. It’s a free country, do what you want, but if your employer doesn’t like it, it could be time to look for a new job.

  5. Actually, Randy that is not quite, but is close to, bullshit (at least in some states). While the US does have the absolutely wonderful Employment-at-Will legal grounding, the Model Employment and Termination Act, not to mention any contract employee lacking a stipulation for such action can file for wrongful dismissal. (Applicable in states enacting META only, not actual legal advice)

    As to the first bit, any stimulant is addictive, but to varying degrees (not to belie the presence of a physical addiction). To say “It sounds like you’re taking a very specific case (yourself) and applying to to everyone else.” After “Seems rather contrary to what I’ve heard (and witnessed) for many years.” is a bit sketchy agumentatively.

    As to the actual post, pure cocaine is actually relatively benign compared to other wonderful concoctions floating around out there. It also is largely dependent on the type of coke one is talking about. The really scary stuff is heroin and LSD given the amount of bad acid circulating.

  6. Drug use should be legal as long as the only person harmed is the user.

    We currently spend $20 billion each year to fight the “war on drugs”, and I bet the majority of people feel it isn’t doing a damn thing. Why not legalize all but the most insidious drugs, regulate them and tax the hell out of them? We could use the money raised to go after the really nasty stuff and probably still have money left over to treat the addicts.

    Then we could spend that $20 billion on something important, like maybe education…

  7. Wow, I figured my question would be just passed over :) My feelings are that its like everything else, moderation is key. There will always be people who take things too far, people who wake up and get stoned, go to work stoned, get stoned again on lunch break, and continue to be stoned the entire day. It’s like being a functional alcoholic or a functional (insert addictive substance). It always comes back to moderation, you have people that drink 18 cups of coffee a day, or slam back just as many cokes to get that caffeine buzz, or smoke 18 cigarettes a day, etc. I think John is on the right track where he talks about addictive personalities, I think some people are just more prone to obsess and become addicted to things, be it smoking pot or collecting pokemon cards, GOTTA GET CATCH ‘EM ALL! Kind of a scary advertising campaign for kids if you ask me…

  8. My personal favourite for addictive non-ingestables is the BlackBerry. (Well, I suppose one could try to injest it, but why?)

  9. You draw some very amusing pictures of well-known kinds of drug users, but I think you–like most other commentators on the subject–underestimate the sheer number of people who do this or that drug, legal and illegal, as a form of self-medication. Sometimes consciously and sometimes not; sometimes knowledgably and sometimes not; sometimes for dysfunctions of brain chemistry that they could get diagnosed and properly treated, and sometimes for dysfunctions that medicine hasn’t yet got round to understanding.

    Certainly there are a lot of people taking amphetamines at levels substantially below that of the typical crystal meth addict. You probably know some of them. They don’t have running sores on their faces and their lives aren’t a mess; they just need–or think they need–a little help to get through their day. The biggest difference between them and my wife is that medical science actually has a name for what’s wrong with my wife’s brain (narcolepsy), and as a result she has a prescription.

    Eighteen years ago, Bruce Sterling wrote an op-ed column in the New York Times in which he opined that the drug “abuse” of the 21st century would be performance-related, not hedonic. It seems to me he’s been proved more and more right as the years go on.

  10. “You draw some very amusing pictures of well-known kinds of drug users, but I think you–like most other commentators on the subject–underestimate the sheer number of people who do this or that drug, legal and illegal, as a form of self-medication.”

    No, I’m aware of that aspect, which is why I take some pains to use the phrase “recreational drug use.” Not everyone who uses drugs uses them for fun. I’m talking about those who do it for the rush (or at the very least, started that way).

  11. Hrm.

    The thing about pot, (which may or may not be valid for other drugs as well, judgement is out on that) is that you CAN use it as an indulgence, smoke it like you’d drink a glass of wine.

    Your description of pot users seems to be more from an old Cheech and Chong routine than anything I’d recognise from Real Life ™, but the different political climates in .us and .nl may have something to do with it.

    While there still is a hardcore counterculture here, it has long since ceased to be the defining nature of a pot smoker.

    Thank god.

    And pot alters your brain chemistry temporarily, but “pot’s big thrill is that it lops 25% off your processing power and makes you enjoy it” is a bit …harsh, I’d say

  12. Since we got married, I’ve maintained to my wife that, while I’d VASTLY prefer any children we have (and now, our two real-life twin daughters), to NOT do any drugs or drink as teenagers, I’d actually, between the two choices, feel better about my child smoking a joint than drinking. I just knew too many people, especially in high school and college, whose lives revolved around getting wasted on teh weekends, and a not-inconsideranle portion of that group continued to do so, more or less, into their twenties. Not so much with the pot smokers.

  13. My opinions about drugs have changed somewhat over time. I used to be rabidly against them, and I’ve seen firsthand some of the real problems they can cause.

    For that reason the only ‘big’ drugs I have ever tried are alcohol and caffeine, and I seem to have less and less desire for alcohol as I get older.

    BUT I certainly see many shades of gray in the mix. It is not very useful to lump all psychoactive drugs into one huge category.

    And even though it is pathetic for an older person to use pot there is a part of me that wants to go to Amsterdam once and see what I’ve been missing. The only real risk, I think, is that I might like it too much and not want to quit, but for someone with an established life I think that risk is not too big. Still, I doubt I will ever do it.

  14. So there I was chuckling at the picture of the 35-year old baked on weed, thinking about how kids can get away with acting like kids, but grown-ups need to grow up. There are probably a number of corollaries to this generally in society: people look foolish when they try to look/act young too long. Then I saw myself, as I knew I would be later that evening, hunched over my PSP trying to manipulate multi-coloured squares on a 4″ screen to top my high score.

    Is there a video game exception to the “stop-acting-like-a-silly-kid-you-look-stupid” rule?

  15. …something you experiment with, usually in college…This was already covered in South Park.”There’s a time and a place for everything. It’s called college.”

  16. I also would prefer my hypothetical children smoke pot rather than drink. Pot never did me any harm. My early to mid 20s binge drinking years on the other hand, I did some remarkably stupid stuff.

    Agreed, using any mood altering substance is increasingly silly with age. Except maybe coffee.

  17. Noone just smokes pot casually. It’s such a small minority why would we have to put up with it? Alcohol is allot safer then pot and if people want to experiment, better to do it with alcohol. Sure, don’t drink and drive, but same responsibilities go with a gun. But guns and alcohol are safe if used properly. Pot is a pretty intense drug. It’s too unpredictable. I really won’t want to have to be exposed to pot smokers in front of the 7-11 legally. I don’t think I should have to smell it. Especially since it’s real nasty for people with mental disorders.
    If they made pot legal there would have to be massive restrictions so it wouldn’t be worth it in the end. If you want to get rid of the stoners, ship em off to Canada. Joke. Probably make a state legal for it like Stonerville so they would shut the heck up about it. Send the married Gay people there too. All the freaks: “Freakville”. Wait that’s Frisco but we can create a “New Frisco” somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on an island with their Reality T.V. Shows.
    I still don’t see what the hype about pot is. Very overrated. Alcohol is safer for the mind. Cheers.

  18. I’ve never tried an illegal drug. But I spent my share of time putting drug dealers, including marijuana growers (1000+ pants) in jail. (Purely subjective reactions: cocaine mules were the most pathetic, meth cookers the most spacey, heroin dealers the most scary, and large-scale marijuana growers the biggest assholes). But I grew increasingly disenchanted with the war on drugs as I did my part of it. Before I come out and decide that I support legalization full-bore — or full-bong — I’d like to see a genuine national dialogue on the subject. Right now there isn’t one and won’t be one, regrettably. I’d like to see a real debate with experts from every field exchanging and critiquing ideas without the whole thing being dismissed in a single talking point. I don’t KNOW what the social, health, economic, etc. impact of legalization of all or any subset of drugs would be, and I’m not willing to take a dogmatic stance based on the guesses I pull out of my ass.

  19. If it was legalized it would have to be in pill form like most of the other garbage on the market. As long as it’s in pill form people don’t seem to care what others consume.

  20. Ken – Why do you only arrest the marijuana growers who have 1000+ pants? Does having too many slacks and chinos make them more offensive?

  21. Okay, I’m curious, what early experiences led you to swear off of intoxicants?

    I also know from both sides of my family that I’ve got a profoundly addictive personality. My dad dealt drugs, etc…

    My wife gets twitchy whenever a Dave Eddings novel enters our household… as I’ve abused his works in the past… to be accurate yet comic about addiction.

    Not gonna play “mee too” but wondering about your experience.

  22. Mark Ensley:

    “Okay, I’m curious, what early experiences led you to swear off of intoxicants?”

    Well, Mark, the answer to that exists in the vast bin of information known to others as “none of your damn business,” where it resides with other informational nuggets that I choose not to share except in the most oblique terms, to spare you the horror of reading me blather on about squick-inducing intimate details of my life and/or to keep my wife or other family member from (entirely justifiably) beating me over a head with a mallet for oversharing.

    Mind you, I’m not in the slightest upset that you asked — I share a lot of things here, although most are reasonably superficial — and I think people who are curious about things about me should feel free to ask, because maybe I’ll answer. Just be aware that sometimes I’ll say, “Eh, I don’t want to talk about that,” and then I’ll move on.

  23. Rich’s earlier comment that alcohol is safer than marijuana is fairly well falsified by research. Alcohol is *damned* dangerous and really wallops the human body. But it was easy for pretechnological cultures to produce, so it’s been around for a large chunk of recorded human history. I’ve read some anthropology that posits that the switch from hunter-gatherer to agrarian was largely driven by the need for a stable supply of ingredients for beer — a convenient way of delivering calories that won’t succumb to mold or most pests.

    Meanwhile, John’s comment about recreational use sort of misses the point — the self-medicating crowd, by and large, thinks that they are recreational. It turns out that quite a lot of what we generally consider to be moral failings — a tendency to chemical addiction, for example — is actually more akin to undiagnosed disorders.

    I was a heavy drinker in college, and then stopped the day I finished grad school. Wasn’t hard at all, I’m just not wired for alcoholism. But just as I don’t think I deserve credit for giving it up, I don’t necessarily think others deserve blame for it.

    Likewise, the idea that you’re somehow a moral failure for being unproductive because you spend your life baked — well, that buys into the whole Protestant work ethic a lot more than I think is necessary. I figure anyone in ownership of a brain has the right to decide how that brain should function, with the usual libertarian line being drawn where it starts to hurt others.

  24. do not use smoking pot as dangerous for Karl Belcher or friends do not with beer as damage your brain never know you ask some doctor or good friend of yours. From Julie Lorraine Jackson.
    WILL DIE I AM NOT SORRY SOMEONE DIE THAT’S PROBLEMS IS Karl Belcher

  25. is there any stoners out there that have experianced bowel disruption,cramps,irritation arround the rectum, and acid shit?

    seriously

    i need to know
    think hard

  26. Hello I just ran across this thread. I’m a regular smoker and I do want it to be legal to help with the economy and end its being on a pedastile. I just wish I never got hooked myself. It’s just an escape from reality ……

  27. I’d like to nominate this for the Top Ten Best Whatever Posts list.

    JS, it’s scary how similarly we think on this issue.

    Illegal drug teetotalers über alles.

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