Pubdate: Mon, 20 Jan 2014
Source: Albany Herald, The (GA)
Copyright: 2014 The Albany Herald Publishing Company, Inc.
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

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. Suffice to say, 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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