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Pot smokers aren't underworld types

By KATHLEEN PARKER Washington Post Writers Group

WASHINGTON - Everybody's doing it - confessing their youthful, pot-smoking ways - so here goes.

So, yes, I toked, too. This doesn't mean anyone else should, and I haven't in decades, but our debate might have more value if more of us were forthcoming.

Among columnists confessing are The New York Times' David Brooks, who voiced his objections to legalization, and my Washington Post colleague Ruth Marcus, who noted parental concerns and her own reluctance to endorse legalization. This isn't hypocrisy, which I embrace in the service of civilization, so much as perspectives developed through maturity and experience.

Though I respect their views and share their concerns, I come down on the other side. My long-standing position is that marijuana should be decriminalized if not made legal. Regulate and tax the tar out of it, please, but let's stop pretending that pot consumers are nefarious denizens of the underworld.

I came to this position not when I was a college student, a time when inhaling pot was a consequence of breathing the ambient air, but when I was the law-abiding, straight-arrow, tough-loving mother of a teenager. Suffice to say, I became aware that marijuana use was common among teens of all hues and stripes.

I couldn't imagine then or now that children might be labeled criminals for behaviors that mostly required parental attention. This should not be construed to mean I recommend pot use, certainly not by minors, any more than William F. Buckley did when he concluded that it shouldn't be illegal.

Marijuana isn't necessarily harmless - abuse is abuse - but adults should be able to consume it without fear of legal repercussions, just as we consume alcohol. Even though today's weed is much stronger than the stuff we used to smoke, its use is rarely as consequential as alcohol can be. Stoners might become overinvolved in the microscopic ecosystem of tree bark, but they're unlikely to shoot up a bar over a pool game.

Brooks listed several reasons why he and his buddies quit smoking (you smoked during school, David?!). I quit because it bored me. I'm a caffeinated sort, happiest on Monday mornings when everyone is back to business and I'm on deadline. Give me coffee or give me death.

Having given up nearly everything that made getting out of bed worthwhile, I am healthier, happier, more productive - and have discovered that life is not, in fact, short. But both my current abstinence and the indulgences I once enjoyed (and may again, if my cocktail-stoop buddies have any say) were my own. My decisions, my responsibility, my consequences.

As they should be - for marijuana as well.

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