Colorado, as we know, has legalized personal possession of marijuana. It’s an experiment and it may or may not work, but I have a hard time imagining the outcome will be any worse than the outcome of our war on drugs. As public policy goes, I think Colorado is moving in the right direction.
It’s certainly a good recreational drug—better than alcohol or any other drug that might be considered recreational. It’s so…free. You don’t have a hangover, it’s less expensive in the long run, it doesn’t compromise functioning in a way that alcohol can.
And this about his personal experience and observation:
Marijuana was not a toxic drug. In fact it was remarkably nontoxic. The problem was not any inherent psychopharmalogical property with the drug itself, but rather the way we were treating it by arresting so many people, imprisoning some of them, and compromising their possibility for successful careers.
And of course the big one – marijuana presence or lack of addictive qualities:
I don’t believe it is addictive, and there’s no evidence of it being so. You get addicted to things like alcohol, cigarettes or heroin and many opiate derivatives, but people do not become addicted to marijuana. There are people who use it all day long and that seems to me silly—you get the high in the morning but the rest of the day, there isn’t much. Nevertheless, it’s not an addiction because those people can give it up if they want to and will not suffer any withdrawal effects. Some may get a little irritable or depressed. That has nothing to do with withdrawal symptoms.
But addiction data is so deceptive. When some of these kids go through the criminal justice system, they often have to go into therapy. And the therapist, in order to get reimbursed, has to specify a reimbursable diagnosis and so he puts down cannabis addiction or dependence.
Our draconian, anti-drug laws and endless “war” on drugs have failed as public policy. We’ve got jails full of people who either need medical help with their addictions or who got caught with marijuana and are non-violent, and otherwise noncriminal. The costs of those policies massive – in terms of actual financial resources and negative impact on millions of lives. It’s a horror show that needs to end and Colorado is taking some steps to do that.
We need to engage in a better civic discussion about drugs and alcohol in general. The tendency to clutch pearls and tut-tut about drugs and marijuana is just another variation on the prohibitionist policies that have failed. It frames the entire discussion as a moral battle against evil. I realize mocking David Brooks column about marijuana is way too easy but it’s a perfect example of pedestrian, simple-minded moralizing that pretends to be profound without actually examining or questioning conventional wisdom.
Let’s start by acknowledging that marijuana is easy to get even where it’s illegal and other drugs aren’t much harder to acquire. Let’s start by recognizing there’s a world of difference between marijuana and crystal meth. We need to let go of the idea that it’s a moral battle, a battle against evil in which the forces of good are pressed to take extreme action. Instead, let’s recognize people don’t use drugs because they’re weak or immoral. People don’t become addicted because they lack will power or because they’re stupid. Addiction is a medical problem not a moral one.