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Leave David Aloonnnnnnnnnnnnne!

[ 165 ] January 4, 2014 |

It ain’t easy defending a column as bad as David Brooks’s yesterday. Reihan Salam tries, and his entry is squarely in that odd category of contrarianism, “if we imagine the column being criticized was making a much different argument than it actually was, it would be much better:”

The column has prompted an ungenerous and largely uncomprehending response from people who are attacking David as a hypocrite, and worse. But you’ll notice, if you know how to read, that Brooks isn’t endorsing draconian legal penalties for marijuana use. Rather, he is suggesting that legalization as such might not be the best way forward. Though I imagine I don’t agree with Brooks in every respect on this issue, I think his bottom line is correct. The goal of marijuana regulation, and the goal of alcohol regulation and casino regulation and the regulation various other vices, ought to be striking a balance between protecting individual freedom while also protecting vulnerable people from making choices that can irreparably damage their lives and the lives of those closest to them.


It should hardly be surprising that Brooks’ column has become the object of the latest two minutes hate. Last I checked, 65 percent of Americans born after 1981 favor marijuana legalization, which makes favoring it an entirely unremarkable and uncontroversial position, and a good way for those of us born before 1981 to seem “down with the youth.” So we lecture him about his thoughtlessness, and the human consequences of marijuana prohibition, as if Brooks had never considered the ways in which the enforcement of drug laws interacts with racial and other inequalities.

Well, I can read perfectly well, and this doesn’t make any sense as a defense of what Brooks actually wrote:

  • The core argument of the first paragraph is just a flat non-sequitur.  Contrary to the implication, “legalization” doesn’t require that marijuana be unregulated or untaxed, and more to the point that’s not how actual decriminalization regimes have proceeded.  In arguing against decriminalization, Brooks must be defending criminal penalties, not regulations or taxes that deter or constrain use.  He wasn’t arguing about how a legalization regime should be properly executed; he was arguing against legalization.
  • So, considering Salam’s assertion that “Brooks isn’t endorsing draconian legal penalties for marijuana use,” the word “draconian” must be doing a lot of work.  The problem is that for an offense this trivial, any criminal punishment constitutes an effectively “draconian” penalty.  A 30-day prison sentence and a criminal record is enough to very substantially affect the life prospects of a young person.  In arguing against legalization, Brooks is ipso facto arguing for legal penalties that exceed the crime.  (And while he might not favor, say, arbitrary civil forfeiture, as long as criminal penalties remain on the books it’s going to happen whether Brooks likes it or not, and this something that really has to be taken into account.)
  • Has Brooks spent a significant amount of time pondering “the ways in which the enforcement of drug laws interacts with racial and other inequalities”?  I have no idea.  I can only judge him on what he writes.  And what he’s written is a not-very-tightly-argued 800 words defending the maintenance of criminal penalties against users of marijuana without a moment’s consideration of the massive racial inequities inherent in the way these sanctions will be enforced.  Even worse, the defense of this arbitrary and racially inegalitarian regime of sanctions involves not a concrete public purpose but some poor-man’s-Allan Bloom (if such a thing is even possible) hand-waving about how people need to be nudged in the direction of actions Brooks considers more noble uses of one’s leisure time.   For Brooks to publicly oppose decriminalizing marijuana, for these reasons, without even bothering to engage with the fact that his criminal-law-backed aesthetic gestures will result in destroyed lives only for people much less privileged than he is appalling, however carefully he’s considered these issues in his private life.



Comments (165)

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  1. ChrisTS says:

    I think you meant racially inegalitarian.

    Otherwise, an excellent take-down. I don’t understand the compulsion to rewrite someone’s work in order to defend an entirely different thesis of one’s own.

  2. Alan says:

    Even worse, the defense of this arbitrary and racially egalitarian

    I think you meant racially discriminatory or inegalitarian.

  3. Vance Maverick says:

    Wikipedia says that what was harsh about Draco’s laws was the wide application of the death penalty. And indeed, Brooks didn’t argue that the penalty for possession should be death — so there! Not draconian at all!

    Perhaps more to the point (though still drawing on Wikipedia rather than knowledge), the penalties varied explicitly according to the social rank of the criminal. In this sense, the regime Brooks is endorsing is draconian indeed.

  4. jim, some guy in iowa says:

    I’d hate to think about how much more effort goes into all the defenses and takedowns of Brooks. certainly more effort than *he* ever puts into a column

  5. (Shakezula) says:

    Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch there’s some dishonest bullshit in heah:

    The goal of marijuana regulation, and the goal of alcohol regulation and casino regulation and the regulation various other vices, ought to be striking a balance between protecting individual freedom while also protecting vulnerable people from making choices that can irreparably damage their lives and the lives of those closest to them.

    Leave aside the sloppy attempt to claim the regulations for booze and casinos and undefined other legal vices (tobacco?) come anywhere near those for pot use in terms of severity. I’d be interested to hear this sack of flaccid cocks explain how the current penalties for for pot use protect vulnerable people (again undefined) from choices that can damage their lives.

    Is it for his own good that a “vulnerable person” (is this the new Black?) can wind up doing 20 for possessing a couple of ounces of weed?

    I guess you can say that while he’s crammed into a crowded prison he can’t get himself in trouble or possibly cause his family any more problems. But then why not the same penalty for drinking? An alcoholic who isn’t in recovery can create a lot of life-damaging behavior, no?

    Gee. You’d almost think Salam is vying to out-Brooks Brooks in the illogical hackery sweepstakes.

    • Lee Rudolph says:

      Gee. You’d almost think Salam is vying to out-Brooks Brooks in the illogical hackery sweepstakes.

      It’s good to see a man dig right in to his New Year’s resolutions!

    • DrDick says:

      Well, anybody who would even attempt to defend Brooks has already proven that he is a hack and either dumber than dirt of batshit delusional. In this case, I would go for all of the above.

    • tt says:

      Did you stop reading there? Reihem is opposed to the current legal regime, and implies that he’d prefer to regulate alcohol more strictly than marijuana.

      • (Shakezula) says:

        If you’re asking if I followed the link, no, I did not, I’m reading off the pulled quote.

        But assuming he does imply he’d like to see Double Plus Prohibition, how would that protect vulnerable populations?

      • EH says:

        The only way that alcohol could be regulated more strictly than marijuana, on the federal level, is to invent Schedule 0.

      • cpinva says:

        “Did you stop reading there?”

        no, I foolishly read the whole thing, and it got progressively worse. reihem proceeds to reference mark kleiman, prof. of public policy at UCLA, who offers multiple, unsupported assertions of the adverse effects of legalization:

        “Legalization will certainly increase drug abuse, including heavy use by minors. Every adult is a potential source of leakage to minors. And if we insist on making minors consume illicitly-produced pot, we reserve 20-25% of the market for criminals. Much better to tolerate leakage and have a grey-market supply to minors like the current system that provides them with alcohol.”

        so yeah, just another hack, in the hacktacular garden that is NRO.

        • tt says:

          The idea that legalization wouldn’t increase use seems implausible to me, though I’ve seen no strong evidence either way.

          • cpinva says:

            “The idea that legalization wouldn’t increase use seems implausible to me, though I’ve seen no strong evidence either way.”

            even if it did, so what? we aren’t talking heroin here, or even alcohol, two drugs whose known harmful effects make pot pale by comparison. the same people who are “heavy users” now, will still be heavy users, without fear of adding a criminal record to the mix.

            • herr doktor bimler says:

              Hey now, the “known harmful effects” of heroin require some citation. “Shooting up with dirty needles” has harmful effects, and there is certainly the potential for overdose, absent for pot (though IIRC, the vast majority of lethal overdoses proved to be from mixing heroin with alcohol & other drugs).

              But in terms of long-term use, it’s remarkably undamaging. The UK model of medicalising heroin addiction — providing it legally, on prescription, to registered addicts — was working very well, until law-enforcement types (wanting more laws to enforce) persuaded the UK government to criminalise heroin.

          • Rigby Reardon says:

            Not a perfect parallel, but apparently when hardcore pornography was legalized in Denmark in the late 1960s, porn consumption went way up for a while before gradually decreasing, eventually to the point where nobody gives a shit about it anymore. (Read that recently, can’t remember where.)

            Wouldn’t surprise me at all if legal pot worked out more or less the same way.

          • Pat says:

            I would expect that legalization would indeed increase use, as some members of society are both law-abiding and curious as to what the effects of pot might be. So those people will try it after it is legalized.

            I would also expect that more young people will try cannabis after it is legalized. Same sort of reasoning: some of them have absorbed the idea that the risk of serving hard time is not worth the thrill.

            But nobody should worry if people with this level of self-control try pot. They aren’t going to be a problem to anyone. But they might increase the statistics, and that will get the nay-sayers all hot and bothered.

            • Al says:

              Yes, many non users will start using. Then, when they realize it interferes with much of what they do, they will back off or stop altogether.

              You people talk about pot like its friggin ice cream. And not everyone eats friggin ice cream 10 times a day.

              People have brains. We use them. Most of us realize that we shouldn’t get stoned and then climb on the roof to clean the gutters.

    • Tristan says:

      You can flip it around, too. The regulations on nicotine haven’t actually protected any ‘vulnerable people’, they’ve just upped the price. Where’s the columns trying to sort that out?

      • DocAmazing says:

        Playing devil’s advocate: first, upping the price does bring down consumption. Fewer people begin smoking in the first place if tobacco is regulated and expensive than if it is available for quarters in a coin-op machine. Second, the great tobacco lawsuit settlement led many states to take the settlement funds and put them toward tobacco education. (Whether that can be called “regulation” or just a good outcome of litigation is up for grabs.)

        • Aimai says:

          Yes, I think they’ve pretty well demonstrated that when you raise the price of tobacco, or soda, people cut back on their consumption. People are quite price sensitive, especially teenagers who don’t have much disposable income.

          • (Shakezula) says:

            As DocAmazing notes, the fact that there’s a lot of free help available for people who want to quit (including free patches) is an important part of the equation.

            If the choice was cough up more cash for your drug of choice or quit cold turkey, I think the figures on quitting would be a lot lower, you’d see more people switching to a cheaper product and you might see more crime related to cigarettes (theft, black market).

        • cpinva says:

          “Playing devil’s advocate: first, upping the price does bring down consumption.”

          playing devil’s devil’s advocate, many states, dependent on tobacco excise taxes, have found, to their amazement, that reduced sales = reduced excise tax revenue. go figure. to make up for this loss, they’ve raised “user fees”, sales taxes, etc., all of which adversely affect “vulnerable people”.

          • DocAmazing says:

            Good argument for state income taxes, graduated/progressive property taxes, and suchlike. The tax did what it was supposed to do: fewer smoker, thus fewer cancer and emphysema patients.

            • Tristan says:

              And in the mean time, those who didn’t quit keep coughing up (ha ha) more cash.

              A decrease in the number of smokers, and subsequent loss of revenue, was actually the stated reason for raising the tobacco tax in my province some years back. I can’t recall if they even threw in ‘also, more people will quit’ as an afterthought that time.

            • cpinva says:

              “Good argument for state income taxes, graduated/progressive property taxes, and suchlike.”

              except, that isn’t what happens, because those taxes are opposed by the very same people pushing for higher tobacco taxes. instead, what ends up happening is that regressive taxes (sales taxes, user fees, etc.) get raised, harming those least able to afford them the most.

              what, you think the republicans are going to raise taxes on themselves, to cover the shortfall resulting from less revenues from tobacco excise taxes? you dream.

    • Beatnik Bob says:

      You noticed, too, the absence of tobacco or alcohol in those milestones? Yep.

      As far as I’m concerned, the comparison is thus–and it is draconian, indeed:

      1: An American is bombarded with messages nonstop BEGGING he or she to consume various brands of beer. Keeping careful track of each beer’s market share is the pastime of industries. Said American enters a bar, orders the beer, drinks it, pays for it, and leaves unmolested.

      2: An American chooses to smoke a joint. The WEAKEST penalties for doing the EXACT SAME THING in a bar, even when invited to do so, involve the confiscation of said joint.

      That is draconian, indeed, according to the commonly accepted use of the word. Can you imagine a cop giving you a $5 or a $50 or even a $500 ticket–for having an after-dinner liqueur…?

  6. It’s also an argument in bad faith couched in weasel words: “continued control,” “marijuana regulation,” etc. We don’t control or regulate marijuana right now, we ban it and jail people who violate the ban. What Colorado is doing now is regulating it, but Salam and Brooks are equating legalization with total deregulation…which ironically they’re in favor of when it comes to far more dangerous substances, like financial derivatives.

  7. Aimai says:

    Basically salaam’s approach is the same as brooks’s. Important people should be judged on their status and imputed good intentions while low status people (bloggers and other hoi polloi) should be controlled or learn to shut up for the good of society. Just as brooks sees no conflict between his youthful indiscretions and a draconian drug regime that would have crushed a black version of brooks underfoot. does salaam ever write exculpatory essays about “what president Obama meant to say?” No. He is comfortable with a partisan divide which is merciless to the wrong people znd forgiving to the right people. Its the essence of conservativism that they like to write the laws as brutally as possible and then propose to let the “Boni” skate on connections or technicalities–and all the while bemoaning the liberal tendency to “cultural relativism” and flexible morality.

  8. DanMulligan says:

    Please, please stop. You’re going to go blind, I tell you. You might even grow hair on your palms for all I know. Stop reading him.

  9. Peter Hovde says:

    Paging Oscar Wilde-“Really, if the lower orders won’t set us a good example, I don’t see what’s the use of them.”

  10. brad says:

    Salam reminds me why Mark Kleiman needs to retire. Sure

    Cannabis legalization will reduce criminal revenue, intrusive enforcement, arrest, incarceration, and disorder around illicit markets, and enhance personal liberty, consumer choice, and respect for the law, and probably reduce bloodshed in Mexico. It might foster safer and more beneficial practices of cannabis use.

    but, counterintuitively, it’ll mean kids smoke more.
    Because dealers check IDs now, and stores won’t, duh.
    Yes, yes, Kleiman is a real academic and probably does have studies to back this up, but he’s helping to maintain harm with “think of the children” bullshit that essentially amounts to saying that if more or less harmless drugs are made legal their usage might increase.

    Personally, I think it’d go down among teens. Rebellion has as much appeal as getting high, and doesn’t require being able to handle the intoxication.

    • brad says:

      And, of course, let’s just remember that maybe preventing a few kids smoking pot despite…. reality, and a handful of them developing real problems partially from that usage would easily justify the prohibition regime and its excesses.


      • cpinva says:

        “And, of course, let’s just remember that maybe preventing a few kids smoking pot despite…. reality, and a handful of them developing real problems partially from that usage would easily justify the prohibition regime and its excesses.”

        which is essentially the basis for all prohibitions: children might gain access to whatever is proposed being banned. in essence, we’re all (except those “special” people) supposed to be treated like children, to keep the actual children “safe”.

    • Joshua says:

      I still maintain that the only reason weed may be a “gateway drug” is because it introduces kids to a black market. In that way, it opens up the door to other stuff.

      • (Shakezula) says:

        It’s labeled a gateway drug because “Sneaking drinks out of the booze cabinet,” is something we associate with rich kids and so can’t deplore. Although I guess cold medicine as gateway drug seems to be gaining traction.

      • brad says:

        Sugar is the real gateway drug, imo.

        And at least part of any gateway effect, pretending it exists, is finding that the law and what most authorities, in its case, had been saying is not rational or true and therefore doubting its word on other drugs.

      • Manju says:

        it opens up the door to other stuff.

        you start out on cheetos but before you know it you’re shooting up cheez-it straight from the aerosol can. With ketchup.

      • Malaclypse says:

        Well, it also teaches the lesson “Adults lied about the dangers of weed. Maybe they are lying about meth, or heroin. I should probably see for myself.”

      • pseudonymous in nc says:

        Anecdata, for sure, but I encountered way more occasional pot-smokers (and way way more stoners) among American college students than there were among British ones, who had the option of legal booze at 18.

        The Colorado law’s 21-and-over restriction is probably going to create a black market for college-agers, but like booze, it’s probably going to come indirectly from a legit source rather than from the tenth tier of a drug cartel. That’s not a bad thing.

        • Aimai says:

          Also, most brits are really paranoid about being caught drinking and driving. There is a real assumption that you will get caught and punished while here it is still something that people don’t think happens to them. You see people pull back from drinking in the UK if they are driving at all. While here people routinely drink and drive. It helps in the UK that a lot of drinking is at local pubs and people walk home or take the tube, of course.

          • Ahuitzotl says:

            Also, you see a lot more cops on the roads in the UK, and getting pulled over seems to happen fairly routinely for many trivial reasons, where as I can literally go for a year between seeing cops in AR or LA other than parked at a crime-scene

      • Karen says:

        I have said this for a long time. Pot is a loss leader for the cartels; no profit, no glamour like cocaine, easy to copy. The only reason to sell the stuff is to attract customers for the harder, more expensive stuff.

      • cpinva says:

        the term “gateway drug” is, itself, bullshit. it assumes correlation = causation. to whit: many people who use “hard” drugs also used pot. therefore pot usage automatically presages hard drug usage. taking this concept to its “logical” conclusion, I can reasonably assert that eating snickers bars leads to the use of hard drugs, because many, many hard drug users ate snickers bars in their youth.

    • Manju says:

      i don’t get your argument. Kleiman has data suggesting drug use will go up after legalization. you feel differently but nonetheless acknowledge this.

      but kleiman should retire because his data could be used to justify the prohibition regime? Well, a normative argument doesn’t negate a positive one.

      plus, kleiman is pro-legalization (and i’m quite sure has actually spent a ‘significant amount of time pondering “the ways in which the enforcement of drug laws interacts with racial and other inequalities”? ‘

      • brad says:

        I don’t accept that increased use, presuming it would actually be evidenced and not just what already is no longer being hid, is a net evil in itself.
        And in no way does it justify the costs of prohibition.
        Kleiman is not pro-legalization, he’s an outlier. Salam follows the quote from Kleiman I cited with another;

        Legalization will certainly increase drug abuse, including heavy use by minors. Every adult is a potential source of leakage to minors. And if we insist on making minors consume illicitly-produced pot, we reserve 20-25% of the market for criminals. Much better to tolerate leakage and have a grey-market supply to minors like the current system that provides them with alcohol.

        And while I haven’t read the book Salam is quoting from, I do have minor familiarity with Kleiman’s work and his… often contrarian positions versus the closest things to academic consensus.

        • brad says:

          I forgot a sentence there. Kleiman’s preferred system is… so odd I don’t know that I can properly summarize it, as I’ve read it. But it’s not simple legalization.

        • Manju says:

          Kleiman is not pro-legalization, he’s an outlier.

          I think he is, but he is in a way that just harshes one’s buzz:

          “I continue to think that continued prohibition may be the worst option under current U.S. circumstances; I’m still waiting for someone who opposes legalization to sketch a reasonable alternative to the status quo. I’m inclined to think that full commercial legalization with minimal marketing restrictions and low taxes – which is where the country is currently headed – might well be the second-worst. But for now the public debate is dominated by those two bad options.”

          • brad says:

            Kleiman’s concerns, as far as I can remember them, focus on the “superusers” who he fears an essentially unregulated market will focus in on and target much like alcohol does now. And that’s a legitimate concern, but also seems to presume that domestic production won’t continue to increase and dabs, which is the mainstreaming of hashish oil and effectively freebasing THC, is a genie that can be kept in a bottle. He’s concerned with harm reduction, which is a good thing, but it’s going to be marijuana derivatives that will be the truly problematic outgrowths, and legal or not those are happening and beyond the ability of any regulatory system to fully contain.

    • Aaron Baker says:

      Kleiman “may have studies to back him up”; but, expert on drug and alcohol policy though he is, he’s still somehow full of shit for saying that marijuana use among minors will increase if marijuana is legalized. Maybe I’m misreading you, but your post could be taken as implying that Kleiman supports prohibition of marijuana. He does not.

      I think he makes his position pretty clear at

      But [opponents of legalization] are right to say that cannabis use is bad for some people, and that the number of people harmed by pot is likely to go up when it’s legally sold.

      This leads him to infer that:

      continued prohibition may be the worst option under current U.S. circumstances; I’m still waiting for someone who opposes legalization to sketch a reasonable alternative to the status quo. I’m inclined to think that full commercial legalization with minimal marketing restrictions and low taxes – which is where the country is currently headed – might well be the second-worst. But for now the public debate is dominated by those two bad options.

      This is followed by a wish that, if marijuana gets legalized, aggressive marketing could be banned:

      In a sane world, it would be possible to allow an activity but forbid its promotion by firms trying to profit from the weaknesses of their consumers; the notion that there’s no middle term between criminalization and allowing aggressive marketing is bizarre on its face.

      If you’re not implying he favors prohibition, your post still gets something very wrong here. If Kleiman’s correct about legalization leading to more use of marijuana by minors (as appears to be the case with alcohol), that fact is entirely relevant and material to the discussion, and is not the emotional handwaving of “Think of the children!”

      • Aimai says:

        I have followed Mark Kleiman for a very long time, although I don’t bother much these days. He’s a really, really, good scholar and as far as I know he is just expressing the same observation that people have expressed for years about tobacco–very young children and teens need to be protected from starting a habit that they will later regret. He isn’t for banning/criminalizing the substance because, as he points out, this has horrible consequences for the entire of society. But nevertheless there is a vulnerable population out there of teens who will be impacted by a greater availability and greater societal acceptance of the practice. Thats just the epidimiologist’s and social scientist’s take on things. Doesn’t make him anti legalization. He’s just interested in what kinds of regulation can/need to be imposed to make the impact less on vulnerable populations.

        Very few things are a “gateway” to worse things without the teenager/minor needing to look through that gate in the first place. A lot of people are in a lot of trouble in this country–abused by family, unprotected by authorities, neglected in school, hopeless, facing mental illness and family problems. Kids culture is rife with kids experimenting with all kinds of shit to get high and avoid their reality. MJ sounds like its among the least harmful ways of doing this–less harmful than huffing or glue sniffing, for instance. I’m personally not worried that we will end up with more dopers than we would otherwise or the numbers are insignificant compared to the harm done by locking people up.

        But Kleiman is entitled to be concerned about opening the floodgates.

        • DrDick says:

          It is also less harmful than alcohol and is nonaddictive. I do not favor teenagers using it for all the obvious reasons, but in itself it is not going to do any permanent harm to them. Full disclosure, I started using marijuana when I was 16 in the late 60s, but haven’t used it for a long time.

          • Al says:

            The dope you were smoking in the 60s was likely not all that potent. It’s different today. That’s important.

            Making pot that is less intense will eventually be common.

        • cpinva says:

          “But Kleiman is entitled to be concerned about opening the floodgates.”

          this is always a “concern”, one which never actually seems to materialize, once prohibition is ended. sure, some small % of users become problem users, but this is true of pretty much anything, including food. I have done no statistically valid studies, but I am willing to bet money that the actual number of problem users constitutes such a small number of total users, and a minute % of the population as a whole, that it doesn’t even show up on the screen. hardly the basis for continuing prohibition.

        • Al says:

          You raise such an important issue that no one talks about: just why is it that so many teens turn to drugs. It’s not just about bored kids in the suburbs.

          Teen life can suck EVERYwhere

      • brad says:

        I was taking it as a given that he doesn’t favor continued prohibition, but I understand where my wording was unclear.
        I feel that prohibition makes it easier to get pot than alcohol for just as many kids now as a theoretical increased secondary availability via legal adult purchases would, for the simple reason that the vendor of an illegal product will not card. Kleiman is a controversial figure in his field not merely because he’s honest about the failures of prohibition.

        • Aimai says:

          I very, very, very, much doubt that it is harder for kids to get alcohol than pot. For one thing tons of kids have access to alcohol in their own homes at all times since they can steal from their parents. Very few have access to their parent’s pot stash. I’m pro legalization and I take the point about carding but come on, there is no way that pot is easier to get than alcohol in this country.

          • brad says:

            Parents can keep an eye on the home bar or number of beers in the fridge. They can’t keep seniors from selling joints and grams to freshman for inflated prices.
            Proximity doesn’t necessarily equal access.

            But where I suspect Kleiman might tell me I’m wrong is that in families with problematic usage of alcohol, and in theory and probably practice pot, too, it’s not so much stolen as forced upon.

            • brad says:

              But I also think about the kids in the projects across the street from me. The bodegas make money without selling alcohol to children, but the guys on the corner need teens to stay in business.

            • DocAmazing says:

              The same seniors selling joints are also selling pints. Getting an adult to buy liquor for you for a small mark-up has always been trivial. Back in the day, I had enough facial hair at age sixteen that I had no trouble buying beer in grocery stores; though things are much tighter today, it’s still not a large problem for an older-appearing teen to appear older still.

          • Anonymous says:

            And data and all that, but weed was way more accessible to me than alcohol in hs and probably my freshman year of college, too(early 90’s). (to get alcohol in college meant asking an acquaintance for a time-consuming favor; buying weed was the opposite)

        • GiT says:

          It’s great that you “feel” this on the basis of your armchair intuitions and anecdata, but this is an empirical question, not a query about how you feel about the trolley problem. Do you have something more than ‘I *feel* Kleiman is wrong, therefore he’s being disingenuous’?

  11. “if we imagine the column being criticized was making a much different argument than it actually was, it would be much better:”: This is more or less the argument in favor of Love, Actually.

    Also this thread is doing strange things to your ads.

  12. Joshua says:

    This insane policy against weed has done little but made a mockery of the drug warriors and the government in general.

    I was born in 1981 and always knew a time would come when weed would be legalized. I didn’t think it would happen so soon but I knew that a law nobody takes seriously, cannot be enforced, and is only in place because of the wishful thinking of elites is not long for this world.

    • DocAmazing says:

      I was born in 1981 and always knew a time would come when weed would be legalized. I didn’t think it would happen so soon

      That’s funny. I was born in 1965 and can’t believe that it’s taken this long.

      • lawguy says:

        I was born in 1946 and was a real hippie. I am still amazed that a majority of my generation or those born just a few years after me are not in favor of legalization.

  13. Tristan says:

    OK, I can probably look this up, but can someone tell em who coined ‘two minutes hate’ and why right wing commentators are apparently trying to make it a thing?

  14. Calming Influence says:

    Question for the lawyers, regarding civil forfeitures – say I’m a resident of Colorado or Washington and I’m stopped with $9,000 in cash in a money belt, like Willie L. Jones. Supposing that the money is for something legitimate but I’m worried about civil forfeiture, is saying “I’m going to buy a lot of pot!” smart or stupid?

  15. Royko says:

    Brooks ignored every legalization argument that’s come up in the last 40 years, and while he didn’t expressly advocate any particular policy, his ornery harrumph at legalization could be heard from coast to coast.

    And it’s pretty clear that his fondness for government prodding stops with a handful of conservative social bugaboos and most certainly shouldn’t apply to business, financial, environmental or employment behaviors.

  16. Aaron Baker says:

    There’s an obvious example of social policy “subtly tip[ping] the scale” against legal behavior without ruining the lives of the people who engage in it: all the governmental and private initiatives that make tobacco consumption less attractive. This example is so obvious that Brooks can hardly hardly plead unawareness of it; nor would it have cost him any effort to mention it if legalization with some burdens is what he really meant.

  17. Aimai says:

    Brooks is going to change his tone right quick when one of the new Pot Lords, possibly the Koch Brothers when they get their finger in the pot brownie pie, starts paying his salary.

  18. N__B says:

    Brooks isn’t the only one making an ass of himself lately.

    • Aimai says:

      This is my chance to make a comment on the Noonan essay. I want to point out that Detroit figures very, very, largely on the tale of woe that rightwingers see “liberalism” and “black people” bringing to that scary thing called “American Cities.” But they never acknowledge the different financial/industrial base underlying the Detroit and New York or that the problems of Detroit didn’t start with some fantasy takeover by the brothers and the ganbangers but rather with the decline of the auto industry and white flight/taxpayer flight. If New York is “Fort Apache the Bronx” thats the fault of the blacks and browns (as the guys on Sons of Anarchy would say) and if its doing well thats the success of the white meritocracy. And vice versa for Detroit. And its as though there are no other US cities to study or to comment on.

  19. Aaron Baker says:

    Pitch-perfect Noonan parody!

  20. Col Bat Guano says:

    The reason I oppose full commercial legalization is that I have enormous faith in the ability of entrepreneurs to stimulate demand, and I think it is absolutely right and appropriate for governments, ideally local and state governments, to be able to apply the brakes.

    Wait, he doesn’t have full faith in the free market? God damn communist.

  21. herr doktor bimler says:

    But you’ll notice, if you know how to read, that Brooks isn’t endorsing draconian legal penalties for marijuana use.

    He’s just endorsing the status quo, to make it easier for him and people like him to avoid the temptation of smoking dope. Because (a) the proper role of the state is to make up for his absence of willpower, and (b) Brooks is an authoritarian asshat.
    The status quo happens to include draconian legal penalties for marijuana use, but somehow Brooks isn’t endorsing those. And somehow it’s the people ridiculing Brooks who need to learn how to read.

    Is there a Two-for-One sale on brown-nosing pundits, or something?

  22. […] the usual rounds, one blog post leads to another blog post, which leads to another blog post, or article that should be a blog post, that links to, finally, an […]

  23. Calming Influence says:

    An one more thing: Brook’s says

    “But then we all sort of moved away from it. I don’t remember any big group decision that we should give up weed. It just sort of petered out, and, before long, we were scarcely using it.”

    When I was a teenager, there were kids who never wanted to spend their own money, or risk getting caught with pot by their parents or the police, but were more than happy to get high on other people’s pot. Eventually, when these “friends” would show up, they would find that we seemed to have lost all interest in getting high.

    I strongly suspect this is why David “moved away from it”; because he’s such a huge dick now, he had to have been a dick when he was a teenager.

  24. philadelphialawyer says:

    Beyond the obvious racial inequality, and beyond the unfairness of imposing any penalties at all, not only criminal, but those relating to driver’s licenses and professional credentials, to employment and housing opportunities, and so on and so forth, also left out by Bobo is the psychic an emotional harm endured by users because of having to live as, to some extent, outlaws.

    Wherever a user goes, he either has his marijuana with him, or has to leave it behind. If he has it with him, he is compromised. Everyone knows that the police have extra special authority to violate your privacy in private cars, but, post nine eleven, not only air travel but even the use of mass transit is predicated on “consent” to intrusive searches. Marijuana, unlike most “hard” drugs, just plain smells too, and possession can be revealed by its scent alone, even without the use of dogs. Of course, actually using marijuana outside one’s own home is even more risky, as the smell of burning marijuana is a dead giveaway. And now with cigarette smoking banned in so many places, even hotel and motel rooms, there is no “getting away” with smoking MJ by “blending” in with the tobacco users.

    Of course, leaving his marijuana behind means doing without, which itself can create psychological and emotional stress for the user. He also has to worry about his left behind “stash,” as there are situations where apartments and even private houses might be entered into in his absence, even if for perfectly legitimate reasons, that might lead to exposure.

    A user who drives has to worry that, even though not at all under the influence while driving, his hands and even the door handles of his car have trace amounts of MJ on them, which can be smelled by dogs. And, as mentioned, he has to worry that an overzealous and unscrupulous cop will use a simple traffic stop as an excuse to snoop around the car and find his MJ.

    In other words, a creeping paranoia, not born of mental illness, but of contemplating what very well might happen, develops in the user. The user really is an outlaw, and living as an outlaw is exhausting. Of course, some folks either want to be outlaws or engage in acts which, justifiably, makes them outlaws whether they want to be or not. But most MJ users fall into neither of those categories. They are otherwise reasonably law abiding persons who have no desire to “live on the edge,” but their use of MJ, which is not very harmful to themselves and, in most cases, of no harm at all to anyone else, forces them to. All because it is illegal.

    Beyond all that, the time and energy wasted in securing the MJ is burdensome. Alcohol and tobacco users and gamblers and overeaters and so on can get their “stuff” easily and legally, right in their own neighborhoods, in most cases. But the MJ user is forced to maintain ties with “dealers.” Often enough, these are harmless persons in their own right, but not always. Sometimes a user must subject himself to a situation in which there is an air of menace. After all, the dealer, at least, is almost certainly committing a felony, and that kind of occupation does not always attract the most peaceable persons. Even without questions of fear, just having to make special trips to illegal venders, having to make phone calls or other communications that themselves might result in police involvement, having to carry cash to the dealer, and then carry the goods home, all expose the user even more. As well as waste his time and effort, as dealers, particularly the ones he knows, may not be located nearby and don’t always have regular supplies and so on.

    Bobo is off base for so many reasons. Certainly the racially, and class based, unfair ways the laws are enforced is one of them. As is the application of the direct criminal and civil penalties, and the burden that a “record” puts on a user when it comes to bosses, landlords, and so on. But also escaping his lazy analysis is the effect of the criminal and other laws and practices on users who don’t even get caught. They have to live their lives in fear. They are afraid to deal with the police, even when they themselves have been victims of other crimes. To Bobo, all of that is invisible. The direct criminal penalties for smoking MJ or being in possession of small amounts are not that great, at least in practice, and at least for most middle class, white users. But the gestalt evades him entirely. He is correct that the law is a moral teacher, but he draws entirely the wrong conclusion from that fact. Precisely because MJ is “illegal,” it compromises the status of the user well beyond the effect of the direct penalties; it carries a strong stigma. As is mentioned in the OP, regulatory schemes carry no such stigma. A person “caught” with liquor or cigarettes that have somehow evaded taxation are not branded as outlaws. Rather, they are seen as having committed a petty, venal, monetary offense. Same with use of tobacco or liquor in a place where prohibited, such as a public park. Yes, the person who does so has broken the rules, and can be fined and such. But he is not seen as some sort of threat to society, some sort of “enemy” in a “war,” the way an MJ user who is caught is seen (ie as an enemy in the “war on drugs”). If MJ was legal but regulated, then smoking in the park would be seen as no worse than drinking or smoking tobacco in the park. As a minor, almost nugatory violation of regulations, not as exposure as a criminal enemy.

    It is this stigmatization, and the fear of it, created by the illegality of MJ that is the real result of the notion of the law as moral teacher in this case. But explaining that to Bobo and to all his fellow bobos would be almost impossible. Their moral blindness and almost pathological sense of their own experiences as not only normative but dispositive are pretty much incorrigible. Bobo, if we are to believe him, used MJ as an adolescent and never got caught. Then, he stopped using it. As did, he claims, his friends and cohorts. And that, therefore, is that. The law should stay as it is, because, hey, it didn’t hurt Bobo and his fellow bobos back then, when they were users, and it doesn’t hurt him and them now, when he and they are no longer users. What? The law hurts you, as an adult user, as a non bobo? Well, the fault must be yours, then, Become a bobo, like Bobo, and all will be well!

  25. Mart says:

    I found it a lot easier to find pot in high school and college than I did as a working adult. In my experience, and that of several large city airport cabbies I have spoken to; getting pot as a youth was never an issue. My cabbies and I do not see how legalizing for 21 year old’s would have a significant impact on youth smoking. Just set up those stings like they do for buying booze for youths.

  26. Howin Wolfe says:

    It’s not a 2-minute hate; it’s a 2-minute point and laugh. Big diff.

  27. […] still embarrassed for him.  In any case, rushing to his defense is the allegedly unstoned Reihan Salam, of the National Review (via Lawyers, Guns, and Money).  His argument is the perfect iron man. The […]

  28. […] In this thread there was some discussion of Mark Kleiman’s position on marijuana criminalization, which he recently reiterated and summarized here. Unlike some commentors, I view Kleiman as a valuable contributor on this issue—he is an excellent policy analyst who is inclined to give arguments against legalization a great deal of credibility and weight (sometimes, I suspect, too much), and he still comes down on the side of legalization. The case for continuing the status quo with respect to marijuana laws isn’t done any favors by the vacuous nonsense of David Brooks and Ruth Marcus, but they’re the quality of advocates the policy deserves. […]

  29. […] fairness, I’m sure Brooks will write a column where he shows evidence of the thinking he’s done on these issues in secret any day […]

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