Actually, Stoners Weren't Too Afraid or High To Challenge David Brooks

There are four ridiculous things about Dylan Byers' confused piece about why there are more columns in opposition to marijuana legalization than in support. 

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There are four ridiculous things about Dylan Byers' confused piece at Politico about why there are more columns in opposition to marijuana legalization than in support. Allow me to walk through them if you are not too stoned.

Basically, if you asked anyone on the street why conservatives are writing pieces in opposition to marijuana legalization, that person would be able to give you an answer and would probably tilt his or her head to the side quizzically. (I'm not sure if a small child could answer the question, but probably.) Byers couldn't. Not even the most obvious reason. 

1. The trend is toward liberalization, so of course conservatives are more compelled by the topic.

Byers predicates his piece on Politico's two-tiered look at the issue on its front page on Wednesday. The site's homepage "has gone to pot," he yuks, taking advantage of the fact that "pot" is also a term used for "marijuana." But really, he wonders why the response to new laws in Colorado and Washington has come mostly from pundits "of a moderate conservative bent." He is so stunned they'd come out in opposition that he italicizes the word "against." David Brooks came out against legalization? Wha—??

The answer, as the man-on-the-street could tell you, is that the political trend is against conservatives. The Times' David Brooks and Joe Scarborough are criticizing marijuana legalization because conservatives traditionally oppose marijuana legalization. While the line is blurry post-drug war and with the GOP's new libertarian strain, it is because a progressive policy is moving forward that the reaction has been opponents of progressive policies.

2. Prominent conservatives started the conversation, so it's natural you'd see them more.

When Brooks published his column at the beginning of the month (shortly after Colorado's law kicked in), it came at the same time as one from The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus. Tina Brown, who Byers cites, responded to Brooks, as did Scarborough on MSNBC. Brooks' piece, with its unexpected admission that he used to smoke marijuana, spread through social media for a solid 24 hours.

Half of what Byers cites was already just a response to Brooks. Other responses, then, were bound to pale in comparison. The Wire wrote about the topic several times, from a more progressive viewpoint, but they of course didn't get the traction of the original. Responses countering Brooks' argument (which was basically that states should instead encourage art) were much more likely to get buried.

Byers, who hadn't made it this far in the argument, could only think of one reason that people weren't defending legalization.

3. It isn't only stoners that defend legalization.

Here's Byers:

Perhaps because outside of Colorado and Washington State, it's hard to come to marijuana's defense without outing yourself as a pothead -- or at least an occasional practitioner. That shouldn't be the case. The pros and cons of marijuana legalization can be covered as sober-mindedly as any policy issue, from gay marriage to health insurance to unemployment benefits.

This is a remarkable set of sentences. People won't write defenses of legalization because they are worried about being outed as stoners, not that there's anything wrong with that. It's maybe the squarest contribution to the public conversation since Family Ties went off the air. People who defend use of marijuana must be marijuana cigarette addicts, but we should open up a conversation circle about it anyway.

I don't smoke marijuana, and I wrote a response to Brooks. Slate's Dave Weigel wrote a response, too, one that got a lot of attention. And he admitted smoking marijuana. So how do we fit into this?

The writer Anna Holmes points to Byers' recent debate with The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates, in which Coates called out Byers for dismissing praise of Melissa Harris-Perry without knowing about her background. "Dylan Byers knows nothing of your work, and therefore your work must not exist," Coates summarized.

And Byers didn't know about my work or Weigel's I guess. Fine. But each of us came to the defense of relaxing drug laws because those drug laws are racist and stupid. Our use of marijuana was irrelevant in both cases.

But all of this is an aside to the most ridiculous aspect to Byers' piece.

4. So Byers had to add an update.

To Coates' point.

Links to those pieces are below. Read them! They offer a good counterpoint to the arguments of Brooks, et. al., and it seems some people in positions of influence may have missed them.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.