I was never a part of anything like Barack Obama’s “Choom Gang,” but marijuana was easy to find when I was in high school and college, and it seemed pretty harmless. I started seeing weed’s effects in a harsher light in the 1990s, when I spent weeks reporting on pot use at a privileged suburban high school. These kids felt all but untouchable. I asked a bunch of eighth-grade boys in button-down shirts if they really thought they could get high every day and still do well in school and life. They all smirked and pointed to one boy. “We know he can’t,” said one of them.
Now Colorado and Washington have legalized weed, and former Choom-meister Obama apparently wants to challenge them (Talking points). Like him, I can’t see how America benefits from having more people in a fog. But let’s not forget that governments are already cashing in on vices that fuel the illusion of escape from everyday reality. Lotteries and casino gambling provide $25 billion a year to state and local governments hungry for revenue. To maximize their take, governments fund flashy commercials promising sudden riches, and it’s generally the poorest who succumb. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, earnest foe of the Big Gulp, now wants casinos so he can tax them, even though their corrosive social effects cost far more than they bring in. Too much Coca-Cola—bad. Gambling addiction—well, if it funds schools, it’s all for a good cause, right? By this logic, states should not only legalize and tax marijuana—they should also pay for TV ads urging us all to toke up.
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