Pubdate: Sat, 18 Jan 2014
Source: Times Union (Albany, NY)
Copyright: 2014 Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation
Author: Kathleen Parker


Everybody's doing it - confessing their youthful, pot-smoking ways - 
so here goes.

I don't remember.

Kidding, kidding. Anyone over 30 recognizes the old adage: If you 
remember the '60s, you weren't there. Nyuk-nyuk-nyuk.

It is true that marijuana smoking tends to affect one's short-term 
memory, but the good news is that, while stoned, one does relatively 
little worth remembering. At least that's my own recollection.

So, yes, I toked, too. This doesn't mean anyone else should, and I 
haven't in decades, but our debate might have more value if more of 
us were forthcoming.

Would I have written this when my children were young? Probably not. 
I was furious when an Episcopal priest, while speaking to my son's 
then-fifth-grade class about his '60s experience, shared that he had 
dropped acid in college. My concern then was the same as parents' 
now: If a priest (or a columnist) can drop, smoke, drink and become 
an accomplished adult, how do you tell your children that it's bad for them?

And then there's the question all parents dread: "Mom, did you ever . ?"

Mom: "Absolutely not."

The correct answer to all such questions is that any drug, including 
alcohol, is bad for children, hence a drinking age, even if many 
ignore it. Children's brains aren't fully formed and they are not yet 
aware of the dangers that accompany impaired judgment. Mind-altering 
chemicals are bad for adults, too, if abused. But adults at least can 
make informed choices. Besides, who knows? Maybe I was supposed to 
become the secretary of state.

Among columnists confessing are The New York Times' David Brooks, who 
voiced his objections to legalization, and my Washington Post 
colleague Ruth Marcus, who noted parental concerns and her own 
reluctance to endorse legalization. This isn't hypocrisy, which I 
embrace in the service of civilization, so much as perspectives 
developed through maturity and experience.

Though I respect their views and share their concerns, I come down on 
the other side. My long-standing position is that marijuana should be 
decriminalized if not made legal. Regulate and tax the tar out of it, 
please, but let's stop pretending that pot consumers are nefarious 
denizens of the underworld. Among those who enjoy a recreational 
smoke are the folks selling you a house, golfing on the ninth hole 
and probably an editor or two here and there.

The "war on drugs" (beware government domestic wars) hasn't made a 
dent in the popularity of pot. Nor, after decades of common use, has 
it been proved to be the evil weed of "Reefer Madness." How much 
better to have dedicated our resources to education and treatment 
rather than, through prohibition, to empowering criminals and 
cartels, not to mention ruining young lives with "criminal" records.

I came to this position not when I was a college student, a time when 
inhaling pot was a consequence of breathing the ambient air, but when 
I was the law-abiding, straight-arrow, tough-loving mother of a 
teenager. I became aware that marijuana use was common among teens of 
all hues and stripes.

I couldn't imagine then or now that children might be labeled 
criminals for behaviors that mostly required parental attention. This 
should not be construed to mean I recommend pot use, certainly not by 
minors, any more than William F. Buckley did when he concluded that 
it shouldn't be illegal.

Marijuana isn't necessarily harmless - abuse is abuse - but adults 
should be able to consume it without fear of legal repercussions, 
just as we consume alcohol. Even though today's weed is much stronger 
than the stuff we used to smoke, its use is rarely as consequential 
as alcohol can be. Stoners might become overinvolved in the 
microscopic ecosystem of tree bark, but they're unlikely to shoot up 
a bar over a pool game.

Brooks listed several reasons why he and his buddies quit smoking 
(you smoked during school, David?!). I quit because it bored me. I'm 
a caffeinated sort, happiest on Monday mornings when everyone is back 
to business and I'm on deadline. Give me coffee or give me death.

Having given up nearly everything that made getting out of bed 
worthwhile, I am healthier, happier, more productive - and have 
discovered that life is not, in fact, short. But both my current 
abstinence and the indulgences I once enjoyed (and may again, if my 
cocktail-stoop buddies have any say) were my own. My decisions, my 
responsibility, my consequences.

As they should be - for marijuana as well.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom