Marijuana-legalization critics' assumptions about pot users are offensive, advocate says

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"These paternalistic, ridiculous assumptions about who marijuana users are and what their experiences should be like are downright offensive," Aldworth says.

As we've reported, the Times' Brooks created the blueprint for high-brow naysayers of cannabis legalization with a column headlined "Weed. Been There. Done That."

At the outset of the piece, Brooks writes, "For a little while in my teenage years, my friends and I smoked marijuana. It was fun. I have some fond memories of us all being silly together. I think those moments of uninhibited frolic deepened our friendships."

However, Brooks goes on to note that he and his pals eventually stopped smoking pot. His personal reasons weren't what he sees as the substance's many bad qualities: He argues that "it is addictive in about one in six teenagers," "smoking and driving is a good way to get yourself killed," and "young people who smoke go on to suffer I.Q. loss and perform worse on other cognitive tests." Rather, he simply concluded that "stoned people do stupid things." After one such incident, he admits that he felt like a "total loser."

He adds: "In healthy societies...government subtly encourages the highest pleasures, like enjoying the arts or being in nature, and discourages lesser pleasures, like being stoned." And while "citizens of Colorado are, indeed, enhancing individual freedom," 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."

The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus echoed many of Brooks's concerns in a piece of her own, labeled "The Perils of Legalized Pot." And via Twitter, Brown suggested that "legal weed contributes to us being a fatter, dumber, sleepier nation even less able to compete with the Chinese."

Cumulatively, these assertions leave Aldworth slack-jawed as much for what was left out of them as for the material included.

"None of these columns addressed to any significant degree the incredible burden that marijuana prohibition has put on communities of color and poor communities in general," she says. "And that's demonstrative of how blinded these people are to any experience other than their own."

"In a year or two, or maybe a decade," she believes, "the vast majority of Americans are going to look at marijuana prohibition and see it as a failure even more significant than the failure of alcohol prohibition."

How so?

Continue for more of our interview with Betty Aldworth about marijuana-legalization critics.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts