Outing Myself (from the Cannabis Closet)

In my latest column for The Week, I argue that the drug war is stupid, deadly, and unjust and try to do my small part to normalize marijuana use. My favorite reaction so far comes from Jossip:

Holy shit Wilkinson, you’re really putting yourself on the line buddy! A upper-class, white Libertarian admits to smoking pot. (But does he listen to NPR? Even better: He’s on it!) Since this might actually (god we hope) take off as the next P.C. activist trend (that would be hysterical), here are the next media figures to emerge from the cannabis closet.

And then there’s a list of Hollywood types I am embarrassed to be flattered to be listed among. It’s true I don’t have a lot to lose. My employer’s response to a column titled “I smoke pot, and I like it,” is to send it out to a list of thousands as a “Cato Daily Commentary.” But you’ve got to expect people in a safe place to make the not-especially-brave early moves in the de-stigmatization game. Neverthless, I think the demonstration effect is important. I’m no “stoner” (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I’m an overeducated, relatively successful professional with a closet full of suits. How freaking square do I look in my byline picture at The Week? The stigma can’t last long when that’s the picture of a typical marijuana user. If this would “take off as the next P.C. activist trend” that would be terrific as well as hysterical. But I know for a fact that tons of P.C.-bashing Republican types smoke weed too, and it would be even better if they would stand and be counted.

59 thoughts on “Outing Myself (from the Cannabis Closet)”

  1. I don't smoke pot, but even if I did, I wouldn't admit it. Not because I fear government, but I fear my employer. I can think of only one employer that I've had that didn't do drug testing or mandate the immediate termination of any employee caught. And I think that a lot of people will not join you on the other side of the closet door because they fear losing their jobs.But I do salute your courage.

  2. I work for a private business that doesn't care if I smoke, and for a government agency that most assuredly does. I am a family man with short hair, and I dress neatly, if not nattily. You'd never suspect that I am one of those druggie types. But I am.I'm some guy you'd never suspect of being a pot smoker. But I do toke up from time to time. I enjoy it, and the only negative effect is the risk of government involvement. I'm some guy. I smoke pot. I enjoy it. I just wish I lived in a country where I could risk revealing who I am when I admit this.

  3. I would be more worried about some local DA trying to make some hay by using the column as probable cause to start investigating and harassing you, even if your employer is fine with it.

  4. Will–on behalf of those of us in much less safe employment/career situations, your column is very much appreciated.

  5. Re James Miller – Yeah. I'm not sure supporting a business that maintains its profitability through murder is anything to be especially proud of. But the merits of ending of this insane prohibition are also pretty clear.

  6. I don't smoke pot, but I'll come out of the closet as an alcohol drinker.I also have caffeine on occasion.I like those drugs and I don't have any problems with people enjoying the drugs they like.Screw all the hypocrites like Obama.

  7. I'm sure that the Mexican drug cartel is grateful for your support.The Mexican Drug Cartel would hate drug legalization in much the same way as Al Capone and company did not want the end of Prohibition. I realize that the 3 or 4 billion dollars spent on the DEA every year seems small compared to the amazing spending spree going on, but combine that with the reduction in needless prosecution expenses and jail time and there are some savings. Anyone with half a brain has to admit that alcohol does more damage than pot (not counting lives ruined by stupid laws). And for those worried about taxes on your pot, even extreme taxation of it should not make it much more than the black market prices of today.I'm almost 60 and I definitely smoked my share of pot back in the day. I probably smoked more weed in the Marine Corps than I ever did as a civilian. My fear of being busted has made me hesitant to even occasionally take a puff. Besides, where am I going to score it, from my son's friends?

  8. Paul,I agree that legalization would harm the Mexican drug cartel. But given the current situation Will's use of marijuana does slightly help the cartel unless the marijuana he consumes was grown just for him and would not have been produced but for him.

  9. I don't know what kind of weed Will smokes and maybe things have changed in the past few years since I'm now a gainfully employed parent who has reasons not to get arrested. In my heyday (which only ended a few years ago and still shows up on special occassions), we were smoking a product from the U.S. or Canada. Preferably weed from the state we lived in. Mexican weed sucks. It's a last resort if you just have to have a sack.

  10. Although I agree that giving money to evil people is a good reason not to smoke pot and was one ot the main reasons I quit let's not forgot that the reason really evil people are involved is that the small time drug sellers were cracked down by the DEA as a matter of policy (monitoring utility bills, using helicopters with infrared sensing to look for growers etc.) I remember one DEA official saying (about 20 years ago) that this was feature not a bug because if pot smokers knew who was selling them the pot they would quit.How did that work out? Our drug policy has caused a minor problem like pot smoking to became a major disaster. Isn't it time to support some rethinking.

  11. Still in the Closet,Even if Will's weed is grown in Canada he is still helping the Mexican drug cartel because at the margin he is increasing the price of Canadian weed which will increase the sales of Mexican weed because there must be some users who decided on the basis of price whether to consume Mexican or Canadian weed.

  12. I don't see why it should matter if you smoke pot, or that people “come out of the closet”. The laws don't make sense. Each new president with a drug history that doesn't work to improve things needs to get the guillotine.That said, the laws do exist, and because of that it makes people who do smoke pot lose some of my respect, because it means they may well be supporting some violence down through the black market distribution chain. (at least that is my default reaction)

  13. Canadian weed is controlled by the Hell's Angels, although they are currently battling with some other unpleasant chaps on the streets of Vancouver. Not quite as bloody as in Mexico, but we don't get a week without a killing or three.

  14. I prefer Arkansan, though it really doesn't have a reputation yet. I do think that's what Willie Nelson likes to get busted with.

  15. Although admitting as much while residing in San Francisco isn't particularly noteworthy:My name is Kipp McMichael. I smoke pot every day and I like it.

  16. re: James miller and Paul Brown . . . uh, hello, if pot is decrimmed, and you can grow a plant in the back yard or the window box presto: NO MEXICAN MAFIA SELLING POT IN THE U.S. Anyway, the best pot is grown domestically–let the free market rule. Life is too short, and lungs are too precious, to smoke schwag.

  17. Will,Between your site and Reason, who knows? Maybe someday we can do a doobie with the champagne on New Year's Eve! Ste4ve's point is THE point. Many bad things go away with decriminalization of pot: Mex Mafia, over-crowded jails, harassment of otherwise law-abiding citizens, (probably) corrupt DEA (what do they do with all those seized boats, houses and cash?), fines and folks getting chemo who would like some relief.There's my piece.Thanks Will.

  18. ste4ve! Dude! Chill. Take another hit, man. It's all good … I'm down with legalization (though I dunno about James). I'm just pointing out that you're not really paying for buds, man. It's like buying fish. What you're paying for is the lives of all the mules, middle-man, by-stander and cops who died to protect the growing, distribution and dealing of that stuff. One day that's all gonna end. And I say that day can't come soon enough. But until then, when you take a toke, think about all the dead men and women, and the environmental damage you've just contributed to. Would you buy beer from a company with that kind of back story? Sorry to harsh, man.

  19. I would be very disappointed if this were true. Surely someone of WIll's refinement and experience would no longer be smoking Mexican Schwag.

  20. Unfortunately this chain of logic quickly becomes specious, because it uses the indirect market links of all persons to be able to cast a net of immorality on everyone.Suppose there are two main manufacturers in an industry (call them Coke and Pepsi). Drinking the product of one can increase overall demand, allowing the other to raise prices and gain some profit, although for less gain than the one you actually bought from. If one of the companies acts morally, and the other immorally, are you then prohibited from buying any delicious delicious cola?Taking your position to its logical conclusion, I would be prohibited from any purchase in an industry where there exists at least one highly immoral company. This would quickly become a wholly untenable position for anyone but a freegan…and thems some crazy people.

  21. Will, thanks for your great column. I'm somewhat similar to you in that I, too, am probably overeducated, interested in politics and ideas, and hard working. My biggest reaction to your column: Will's such a lucky guy. He lives in DC and obviously has found a hookup!

  22. Will,My name is (redacted), I smoke pot because I like it.I was going to talk about my education, and how “successful” I was in family and profession. But why should I have to defend my worth to defend the use of marijuana? As a scientist, I just wish I could buy marijuana tincture. Smoking is carcinogenic and I have children – one an infant, one with asthma. I obviously cannot expose them to smoke. I sit here realizing that in a free market, I would not have to endanger my children's health so I could enjoy a pleasant high. I face a choice of smoking outside and risking arrest, smoking inside and endangering my children, not smoking at all, or using my education to prepare lipid/alcohol extractions of marijuana. It is absurd that I have to go through these contortions because I like pot.I wish I could come out. But my employer has a no tolerance policy – if lucky I could ask for drug treatment and be “cured”. I would have to participate in this farce to keep custody of my children and my health insurance. I am threatened with loss of employment, loss of my children, and loss of insurance because I like pot. People may ask, “Why do you risk it?” I must respond, “Why should it be a risk?”Also, I'm a socialist and generally think your politics are shit.

  23. Closet Man, in spite of your Socialist politics I will help you get a smoke-free high. Get on a plane to California, go to one of our ever-helpful weed doctors and tell them the stress from your being a socialist is causing insomnia and headaches (as well it should). He/she will give you a prescription for a liquid THC product that you squirt in your mouth, so your kids won't have to breathe any nasty smoke. ( I havent tried it YET but I'm told it is the purest buzz imaginable.) Then, once you're high, crack open The Road To Serfdom and let the words of Hayek permeate your brain…repeat on a bi-weekly basis and soon you'll be writing six figure checks to Cato and worshiping Will as a god.

  24. Every time you pay taxes (whether sales, income, or otherwise) you help to screw over poor people.You should feel a lot worse about paying taxes than Steve and Will do about smoking pot.

  25. Hey Another,I am also a scientist who likes to get stoned, though not a bloody socialist. However, due to our shared humanity and the kindness of a libertarian I do want you to know you're not alone. I know lots of stoned scientists and if I were less of a chickenshit I would start a facebook group called 10,000 stoned scientists.

  26. Let's think about this from the standpoint of the establishment. Drugs are a good tool for figuring out who is trustworthy. If you use drugs, then you are not loyal to the establishment and its norms. You are prevented from getting into high positions. The more arbitrary and silly the norms, the better they are for measuring trustworthiness. If you are truly trustworthy, then you don't break the rules even if they are stupid.

  27. My name is…uh…wait…it's…uh…wait, I have it right here…it's…uh…Capital One…no…that's my credit card…uh…well, call me Z. I, like, smoke, you know, and…and…it's like…uh…wait…ok, this is the thing. My point is that smoking weed is like…is like…uh…okay, say you have a triangle, and that triangle is, like, one side is like…uh…like the drug cartel, and one side is like…uh…wait, I found my license….uh, what was I going to do with my license?

  28. OK. And when I drink a cup of coffee, I'll think about all the poor, slave-driven peasants who picked the coffee beans. And when I buy a head of lettuce, I'll think about all the pitiful migrant workers. And when I buy a pair of Nikes, I'll think about the sweatshops in Thailand. And when I buy a GM car, I'll think about all those underpaid UAW workers. And then I'll blow my brains out. And it'll be YOUR FAULT.

  29. As an employer, and a Libertarian, I have mixed views on this issue.I am not opposed to the use of pot. I wish it was legalized. But even if it was, I would run random checks for it because I do not like what it does to people (nor do I like what alcohol does, and I keep an eye out for that, too).It's not that I'm opposed the use, I'm opposed to the behavior and quality of work that occurs because of the use.If you want to work for me, be sure you use alcohol in moderation, and do NOT smoke pot. If it were legal, I'd still stipulate this. I see no reason to risk the productive value of the work I need done just because someone happens to enjoy a good toke now and then.I don't see any hypocrisy or dichotomy in my view. As a businessman, I have to look out for what's mine.

  30. Sunday morning links (posted early)…

    Photo on right from our webmeister Chris’s back yard yesterday. He has hired this fellow to organize his garbage recycling. I did the same. In fact, I have two of them moonlighting for me. The Brits, who seem so obsessed with their "bins," n…

  31. Will,Well done. It is elegantly written, carefully thought, personal, and potentially costly. This makes it courageous, though not quite heroic. I wish you success in your movement.

  32. In most of the U.S. and Canada, it's not that difficult to avoid buying marijuana that wasn't handled by the Mexican mafia. Maybe you should ascertain whether or not a person is buying something from bad people before you scold them for buying something from bad people?

  33. The problem with the present set of policies is the externalities, e.g. the terrible price Mexico is paying for their being such a profit in illegal drugs. In a democracy, the tipping point for a change of policy is, theoretically, when a majority of voters think something should be changed. This makes for a conservative in the sense of inertia biased system. The liberal answer to this has been to change things in the courts. Ideally there should some way to give the externalities a 'vote' in a way that doesn't exist now.

  34. I don't smoke pot… but if pot were legalised then surely over a generation there would be an increase in use. And an increase in use while not being that harmful medically (although the effects on the brain are debated) I think leads to generally socially undesirable results- especially among the young who are the most vulnerable. While some of us might think its ok for anyone to do whatever they want, aren't there still some secular values that the State can legitimately encourage? Like environmentalism, citizenship, education etc etc? If we accept that the government has the right to regulate and control for the better good- which is what everyone in Europe is demanding is done with the banks, then maybe it is ok for the government to do the same with drugs. Especially among the young who are the most vulnerable.Heavy drinking is endemic amongst the under 18s anyway, and has alot of undesirable effects in the wider social sphere, and most people think we should encourage moderation. So it is legitimate for a government to think of ways to encourage moderation. Surely this should mean we must be even more cautious to allow yet another drug to flow around more freely, as the combined effects of alcohol and marijuana amongst the young might lead to even more strange social side effects and undesirable traits- I'm keeping these vague as I think these are difficult to categorise.While alot of people here might seem happy with life, if alot of studies suggest that high drug use in the under 25s is often symptomatic of hopelessness, apathy, frustration, lack of social cohesion etc etc then surely these are the issues we should be looking at? If drug use is higher in poorer communities, or amongst 'disaffected' black youth, or amongst the uneducated this might show that drug use itself is an indication of something else we might want to eliminate. And even if one person or several claim they smoke pot because they like it and are healthy, wealthy and wise citizens, that is not really a sound basis for policy when alot of others might not be in their position?

  35. I think that the libertarians, such as Will, would disagree with you on the proper role of government, and the libertarian assumption is exactly that people should “do whatever they want”, at least so long as it's not harmful to others. Your “think of the children” argument also seems spurious. Who says that drugs won't be age-limited in the same way as alcohol and tobacco? In any case, I don't think a long sentence in the state penitentiary would do much for the “hopelessness, apathy, frustration, and lack of social cohesion” of a young black man arrested on a drug charge. And that's really one of the points of the drug legalization movement: that even if the government wants to prevent whatever evils drugs may cause, it would do best to address the underlying social problems and the direct harm of drugs, rather than have a blanket prohibition that causes as much harm as good, and often does so in a very discriminatory manner.

  36. If you use drugs, then you are not loyal to the establishment and its norms. You are prevented from getting into high positions.Just like Clinton, Bush & Obama.

  37. Agreed. The worst thing about marijuana is stupid stoner culture. Tie-dye and being lazy aren't going to convince anyone to change the drug laws. It helps to have more educated, ambitious, “square” folks like yourself being open about their recreational chemical choices.

  38. I think there would be an age limit, but I don't think that would work as it doesn't work well with alcohol and tobacco. And I think we should address underlying causes, but legalisation won't do that. Rehabilitation and education might do that, but legalisation should only come after these things and not before, as if it comes before it will only exacerbate these problems.

  39. Actually quite often when mature, educated professionals choose to smoke, they choose high quality herb and not Mexican schwag. Like when you choose to drink wine… I doubt you're drinking Nightrain or any other two dollar bottle of MD 20/20

  40. I don't smoke pot. It makes me nervous. I'm a short haired, well-educated knowledge worker. I'm kind to children and animals. I'm socially engaged and donate to charity. I occasionally like to do cocaine with my friends. Where do I start my movement?

  41. In a room with the window shades pulled tight, the doors locked, and the wallets emptied. :-)Sorry. Couldn't resist. Also, I strongly recommend you find something else to occasionally do. Seriously. I've known many educated professionals who liked to occasionally snort blow. I can think of none who can say, “And then I decided to try coke and it was a great decision.” I can think of many who can say, “And that's when I lost my job” or “packing up and moving to Florida at 2 a.m. seemed like a good idea” or “I'll never meet another like her,” etc, etc. It's a very insidious substance.

  42. I don't really think marijuana legalization is necessary, those who want to smoke have plenty alternatives to get a legal high, one of them is International Oddities, there are legal weed shops or legal herbs to smoke, why is marijuana that important after all?

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