I, like David Brooks, have smoked marijuana

Part of me wishes that I could say that I regret these experiments. I suppose that I would regret them had they led to some sort of bad outcome. But unlike alcohol, pot won’t poison you to death. Plus, I’m careful with matches. And because I am white, and was a college student at the time, I had no fear of arrest or incarceration. This is what struck me as I read David Brooks’s anti-legalization column, in which he confessed to smoking pot in high school: When white people talk about pot use, we tend to talk not about the law-enforcement hazards associated with getting high, but about the moral and cognitive hazards (and, by the way, it is true that I am downplaying these hazards, but I don’t deny their existence).

The disparity in arrest rates between white and black pot-users is the most interesting aspect of this debate. Federal statistics show that in 2010, blacks were almost four times as likely as whites to be arrested on possession charges. For most whites, pot was long ago de facto decriminalized. This double standard is one of the most obvious reasons I know for moving toward comprehensive decriminalization. One might argue that the double standard could be dealt with by enforcing possession laws more stringently in white communities. But good luck with that. In reality, here on Earth, that isn’t going to happen, mainly because whites in power would never allow their children to be exposed to the criminal justice system in that way.