Colorado’s shame and sorrow — bring back the old law

A server, right, behind an outdoor bar prepares marijuana for partygoers to smoke during a Prohibition-era themed New Year's Eve party celebrating the start of retail pot sales, at a bar in Denver, late Tuesday Dec. 31, 2013. Colorado is to begin marijuana retail sales on Jan. 1, a day some are calling ‘Green Wednesday.' (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
A bar in Colorado on New Year’s Eve. (Brennan Linsley/Associated Press)

Seeing what is going on in Colorado is enough to make any self-respecting member of society sit down and scream “Heavens!” and demand smelling salts — well, not smelling salts. Something less mind-altering. Toast.

It’s legal there now, if you’re over 21. Yes, it’s legal for recreational use, not just medicinal, no longer administered only to those in pain as it used to be, but willy-nilly to anyone who asks.

Look, I understand that sometimes we as a society come across substances that we decide are enough fun for us to use as adults that we ought to make them legal. But what about the kids? Whenever anything is legal for one person to use, you might as well assume that it is legal for everyone, especially if the only thing keeping some folks away is the porous membrane of an age restriction.

I have to admit, I’ve been on the wrong side of this one. Like many young columnists, I experimented with the stuff when I was younger. And I made a right fool of myself. Not hip enough to try it during high school or stumble woolly-tongued through any English presentations, I had to wait for college for my turn. But then I leapt into it with the same kind of abandon anyone with an not yet fully developed prefrontal cortex leaps into anything. How well I know the slippery slope!

You start socially, surrounded by friends, but then you keep going. Oh, the music I listened to under the influence. The phone calls I made! I fell into the delusion that the things I was saying and thinking were interesting. The trouble with this delusion is that it only persists for a few hours at a time and then you get very hungry and feel a little sick to your stomach (or you could make a good living off it and give TED talks).

My point is that the substance is terrible. It ought to be sequestered. It leads to all kinds of regrettable behaviors. One time, after over-indulging, I tried to write a paper. I turned it in and it got a decent grade. I’m sorry, this is not a good story to illustrate my point. In fact, most of my stories are not going to be good stories to illustrate the point I am making, which is that young people should not be allowed to experiment with the substance that I experimented with as a young person, because they will grow up and not reach their full potential, just as I did. Er, didn’t. Well, you see what I’m saying.

Look, I see what is happening in Colorado now, and I quail. The impact of this substance on your cognitive development. The impairment it produces in drivers. The easy payoff it provides in the form of cheap momentary pleasures, offering satisfaction in the present at the cost of anything more subtle.

I understand its appeal. Everyone understands its appeal. That’s why it should still be banned. Yes, there’s a whole social culture around its use. Yes, it’s often portrayed in the media as fun. Yes, there are plenty of responsible adults who enjoy it without doing any harm. But the cost is just too high. We need to bring back the laws to the way they were before.

We need to bring back the 18th Amendment.

What were you talking about?

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.
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Alexandra Petri | January 3