Blog Post

The New York Times' David Brooks Makes a Case for Keeping Marijuana Illegal; Falls Flat

Sharda Sekaran

David Brooks is welcome to reminisce about how he once embarrassed himself while high and moved on to other interests but this is irrelevant to the broader debate about marijuana prohibition. As Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno from Human Rights Watch astutely observes, whether or not David Brooks or others think marijuana is a waste of time or regret their youthful indulgence in it, is not the point.

It may come as news to David Brooks but this is not all about him.

There are plenty of less than optimal behaviors that youth engage in or that make otherwise reasonable people seem silly. That doesn’t mean we should criminalize all these things and lock everyone up for doing them. Furthermore, as impaired as Brooks says he became under the influence, there are plenty of other marijuana enthusiasts who have been able to hold up their productivity and wits just fine through the years. One response to his column is an apparent satire from a man writing from the perspective of a former Brooks smoking buddy who continues to consume marijuana and has turned out just fine. Take that, Mr. High Horse (pun intended).

Marijuana prohibition results in billions of wasted dollars and millions of lives damaged by the consequences of a marijuana arrest record. Brooks should count himself as privileged that his biggest regret was flubbing an English class presentation. He seems blissfully unaware of the 7 million marijuana possession arrests between 2001 and 2010, and the mostly black and Latino youth targeted daily under prohibition who could only wish to be so fortunate.

As Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan sums up Brooks misgivings about his youthful affection for marijuana and current moral grandstanding perfectly:

I do not care how many young minorities must have their lives ruined by being arrested for weed. I demand we keep in place a law that I acknowledge is purely for show and that I know will be widely ignored, in order to assuage my conscience about the upbringing of white teenagers.

Sharda Sekaran is the managing director of communications for the Drug Policy Alliance.

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