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.