Ben Stein's Diary

Stoned Crazy at the ‘New York Times’

The ‘Editorial Board’ legalizes marijuana.

By 7.28.14

‘Brain of Marijuana User’ (Wikimedia Commons)
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Sunday—Beverly Hills
I awakened this morning to a cloudy sky. Off to swim while pausing every minute or so to throw the ball for Julie. We have had no rain in just about forever, and even any rain at all would be a Godsend.

Then, breakfast, and while my English muffins were toasting, I opened the New York Times. With suitable sounding of clarions, bugles, coronets and drums, the Times announced that its mighty “Editorial Board” would now be endorsing the legalization of marijuana. This was announced with as much solemnity as if there had been an actual sighting of the Lord God Jehovah at Union Square.

The Times “Editorial Board” has decided that the federal ban on marijuana is all too much like the Volstead Act, which enacted Prohibition on alcohol. It is creating a new, immense class of law breakers, and filling up prisons with marijuana law breakers, who turn out, by the cunning of racism, and through no fault of their own, to be largely black.

The Times has figured out that while marijuana is definitely not like eating whole wheat toast, it’s not worse for you than alcohol. It doesn’t really have seriously bad effects that merit its being kept illegal. And it’s only a vestigial wish by Richard Nixon that kids not be allowed to have fun that keeps it illegal under federal law.

Time to end all of that nonsense, says the Times “Editorial Board” and just make pot legal, except for kids because it might hurt their brains.

Ladies and gentlemen of the New York Times Editorial Board, you don’t know what you’re talking about. You don’t have the first clue.

I have been in the drugs and alcohol recovery community in an extremely active way since 1987. The exact way is nobody’s business but my own and my wife’s. I have seen up close and personal what today’s marijuana does to young and old people. It isn’t a mild relaxant. It isn’t a mild hallucinogen. It is a powerful sedative and hallucinogen. It robs human beings of their energy, their consciousness, their ability to plan, their ability to make moral decisions. It destroys ambition. It turns young people who had goals and dreams into vegetables.

I have seen it destroy — yes, destroy — the life of one of the great young men in my life. This was a young man with great athletic and scholastic promise until, in his 15th year, he discovered marijuana while he was at boarding school. He went straight down into a barely functioning existence, even with one rehab after another. His life, as he now admits some twelve years later, has now been “wrecked.” It all started with marijuana. God knows how it will end.

My most brilliant friend in Hollywood, a man of stupendous natural talent, a man who had risen to high pinnacles of studio power before middle age, has been laid low by marijuana addiction. He cannot get off it and he cannot function effectively with it. In fact, he basically cannot function at all to the point where taking care of his cat is the limit of his ability.

I have sat in countless — and I mean countless — meetings with marijuana smokers who told how they had sneered at the threat that marijuana was a “gateway” drug that would lead to much more serious drugs. Almost inevitably, not inevitably, but almost inevitably, the chute to addiction to heroin was smooth and extremely rapid. Only people utterly unfamiliar with drug abuse would seriously think that marijuana is never or rarely a gateway drug.

I wonder if any of the people on “The Editorial Board” of the New York Times has ever tried to drive, to gauge freeway speed and stopping distance, to maneuver safely in traffic, while under the influence of marijuana. As our beloved Governor, Jerry Brown, has reportedly said, while he favors legalized marijuana, he is terrified of a California where most or at least many of the drivers are stoned on pot at any given time.

Can you even imagine an America where the average driver is allowed to toke up on weed while he’s behind the wheel? Here’s a suggestion: get a Philly Blunt from your daughter. Smoke two puffs. That’s all. Two puffs. Then try to drive ten miles and back to your house.

Then conjure up the whole country driving while high on reefer.

Let’s go on. So, the weed is bad for people who are 17 or so but not bad for people who are 21? Is that even scientifically possible? That a dangerous drug would know the patient’s birthday and stop being dangerous on his birthday or within a few months of his birthday? This is the “science” that comes out of the Newspaper of Record which just assumes that anthropogenic “climate change” is “scientific fact.” This does not speak well of the science editors at the Times.

And once most of the parents of America have pots of “the chronic” in their kitchens, does anyone really think the kids won’t find it and start taking it when they’re twelve? Then what kind of future do they have? What kind of future does a totally high America have? If I were Putin or the Caliph of the Islamic State, there is nothing I would want more than for the USA to legalize pot. Talk about sapping a nation’s will to survive. 

The Russians are invading Ukraine. Terrorists have overrun much of the Middle East. Africa is ablaze with terrorism from top to bottom… is this really the best the USA can do? Figure out new, softer, easier ways to get high? End the pot addiction problem by saying pot’s not a problem? 

Now, is pot more dangerous that alcohol? That depends on what kind of pot and how much and what kind of alcohol and how much.

One double vodka martini will almost surely make the woman who drinks it DUI. But how many people have a double vodka martini at lunch? Not many. On the other hand, “one hit” grass, where you get looped and start hallucinating from one puff, is not rare. So, which is more dangerous? How many Americans will have “one hit” pot in a typical day vs. how many will have a double martini before sliding behind the wheel?

Yes, alcohol in excess is bad, too. But because one entrenched institution in America is bad, should we start adding to institutions that are bad for us? Should we add to the ways Americans can readily wreck their lives? Who was the last person you knew besides cancer patients whose life was improved by pot?

In a world where dictators shoot down passenger planes and no one does anything about it, yes and yes and yes, people will want to get high. God and respect for life have been pushed out to sea by the courts and the lawyers. And life is incredibly hard. Beyond hard. But is making it legal to get truly messed up the next best step? Maybe at least try a return to spiritual principles. Don’t laugh. It works if you work it.

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About the Author

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.