Sunday, January 5, 2014

David Brooks Scolds Pot Smokers

Over the past year, I've written a number of articles about the stop-and-frisk program in New York City, which targets blacks and Latinos–the vast majority of whom are innocent. While the program has proven ineffective in recovering guns, it caused marijuana arrests to soar here. On a national level, federal data shows that blacks are four times as likely to be arrested for possession, despite the fact that blacks and whites use the drug at similar rates.  In a recent column, David Brooks is seemingly unaware of the racist war on pot, which stigmatizes and criminalizes minority youth.

Brooks recalls smoking pot as a youth, but writes that he grew out of it and turned to life's finer pursuits. He expresses regret at the legalization of weed in Colorado and Washington and cites health, cost and tax issues, but does not mention the arrests and imprisonment that ruin lives. Instead, he plays the moral scold in an argument that could just as well be used to support the prohibition of alcohol:

Laws profoundly mold culture, so what sort of community do we want our laws to nurture? What sort of individuals and behaviors do our governments want to encourage? I’d say that in healthy societies government wants to subtly tip the scale to favor temperate, prudent, self-governing citizenship. In those societies, government subtly encourages the highest pleasures, like enjoying the arts or being in nature, and discourages lesser pleasures, like being stoned.

In legalizing weed, citizens of Colorado are, indeed, enhancing individual freedom. But they are also nurturing a moral ecology in which it is a bit harder to be the sort of person most of us want to be.

Once again, a conservative supports intrusion into personal choices and contradicts the supposed belief in "freedom" and "small government." Brooks would do well to stop generalizing about those who use marijuana recreationally–and start considering the ways in which arrests and incarceration related to pot have prevented so many from "being the sort of person" they want to be.

Image: Truthdig

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