David Brooks: I enjoyed pot, but you shouldn't

Here's patrician blatherskite David Brooks with an "I smoked weed, but am happy to see you jailed for it" sentiment: Weed, Been There. Done That.

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 ... most of us developed higher pleasures. Smoking was fun, for a bit, but it was kind of repetitive. ...

But, of course, these are the core questions: Laws profoundly mold culture, so what sort of community do we want our laws to nurture? What sort of individuals and behaviors do our governments want to encourage? I’d say that in healthy societies government wants to subtly tip the scale to favor temperate, prudent, self-governing citizenship. In those societies, government subtly encourages the highest pleasures, like enjoying the arts or being in nature, and discourages lesser pleasures, like being stoned.

This column really gets to the heart of what's wrong with David Brooks. He sees criminalizing millions of people, and all the associated social and financial costs, as a tolerable "subtle" disincentive to something he himself enjoyed. Moreover, the reasons he gives center on the fact he stopped enjoying it when he gained the privilege of access to greater things. He even downplays the alleged medical downsides in favor of what amounts, literally, to a puritan distaste for "lesser pleasures."

(And what was the first high pleasure brought into it? Track. A sport so enmeshed with drug abuse that a pro victory or record cannot occur without suspicion.)

Brooks' is a mild, parochial, condescencing banality. No-one mistakes the things he says, or writes, as influence. But we should still be thankful that the social institutions his kind of banality serves are relatively minor evils—and that they're tumbling around him.

Update: a response from psychiatrist and author Gary Greenberg, who writes that he was one of Brook's youthful smoking buddies. I think it's apocryphal humor, but it's brutal in any case:

I still get high from time to time. It helps me deal with the kids, makes me more playful and my knees ache less when I get on the floor with them. ...

Funny thing. I didn’t know before this morning that I was the “full-on stoner” who was one of the four reasons Dave gave up weed. Sorry as I am to hear that our frolics are now his shameful 4 a.m. memories, after all these years of silence, it’s nice to know I mattered to him, that I was a significant part of the moral life of someone so important and with such a strong “sense of satisfaction and accomplishment”—an achievement I guess I made possible by teaching him that “one sort of life you might choose is better than another sort of life.” ...

[Brooks] knew exactly how to go all bar mitzvah boy, how to talk to authority, how to flatter and impress and toady, even stoned to the gills, like his inner Eddie Haskell was deeper down than the pot could get. And it worked. The cop let us go, told us we were lucky he knew Dave and that we were white kids from Radnor...

Read all of it. It's very funny!

UPDATE: Greenberg confirmed that he was making it up.