Another Perspective

The Kids Are Alwrong

Legalizing marijuana would be bad for the children.

By 9.7.04

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In Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown, Samuel L. Jackson comes home to find Bridget Fonda lying on the couch, smoking dope, and giggling at the TV. Disgusted, he tells her that marijuana will rob her of her ambitions.

"Not if your ambition is to get high and watch TV," she replies.

It's fashionable among conservative and libertarian journalists, such as the editors of National Review and Reason magazines, to demand the decriminalization or legalization of drugs, especially of marijuana.

Many weighty arguments have been mobilized in support of this cause. Yet this movement has only made fitful progress in the quarter of a century since the first generation of American voters to have much first-hand experience with marijuana began to have children themselves. Parents now understand that additional marijuana use would exacerbate many of the unhealthy and unfulfilling trends already at work in our society.

The problem with marijuana is not that it's some wild and crazy thing, but that it's middle-age-in-a-bong. Smoking dope saps the energy from youth, turning them into sedentary couch potatoes.

The parents of America already have a hard enough time getting their teenagers -- and, increasingly, their adult children who have come back home to live -- off the TV room floor when they are perfectly straight. Parents understand that changing laws to make marijuana more readily available -- and, let's not kid ourselves, that's what these "reforms" would do -- would create an even more inert and obese generation of young people.

Smoking dope may not do all that many of the horrible things often attributed to it, but it definitely makes people want to sit down. And that's something even the most clean and sober young people of the 21st Century do way too much of already.

Whenever parents get together, the talk eventually turns to how Kids These Days -- including perfectly adjusted ones -- never want to go outside. Sunshine is their enemy. Everything they desire most in life -- 100 channels, video games, instant messaging -- comes to them on a screen, best viewed in a darkened room.

MARIJUANA ALSO MAKES PEOPLE easily amused. In an electronic age, where an unlimited supply of entertainment is instantly available around the clock, that's not a good thing. It's hard enough to for young people to decide that they shouldn't spend another twenty minutes flipping through the cable TV dial once again on the assumption that -- while all the programs the last six times around were lame -- something cool has got to have come on in the meantime. Add THC to their brain chemistry and they're headed for an infinite loop.

Eventually, marijuana-augmented TV addiction becomes a very real threat to getting anything done in life. The last thing parents want is for their children is for them to wind up like that perpetually baked stoner The Dude ("or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing") played by Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski.

It's not just technology's fault. The way middle class parents now raise their kids can incline them toward passivity, which the availability of marijuana can horribly aggravate.

Another reason kids don't go outside anymore is because leaving the house has become an enormous production number. When I had a baseball game as a kid, I merely grabbed my glove and walked or biked to the park. No trouble.

My son's adolescent teammates, in contrast, never arrive for their league games in anything less massive than a Ford Explorer, because the crime rate is too scary for their parents to let them walk and the traffic too dense for them to pedal. Further, they have to lug not only a duffel bag full of baseball impedimenta, but at least one, and preferably, both parents, lest they grow up to write self-pitying screenplays about how nobody ever came to watch them play.

Not surprisingly, the concept of spontaneously heading over to the park between scheduled games to see who wants to play some ball seems to modern suburban boys to be as outdated and unfeasible an idea for having fun as tipping cows.

Growing up in a world where every activity is carefully scheduled by parents means fewer youths are self-starters. They don't expect to initiate activity. They take the same attitude toward free time as do soldiers in a hurry-up-and-wait Army: unless somebody in command is yelling at them to do something, they don't do anything. They just flop down and try to amuse themselves in the mean time. More marijuana would only make this already inactive lifestyle worse.

Not surprisingly, young Americans have gotten fatter and fatter as the proliferation of remote controls means they don't even have to walk across the room anymore to turn up the stereo. Believe me: the munchies aren't going to make that problem any better.

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About the Author

Steve Sailer is the movie critic for the American Conservative and a columnist for VDARE.com.