City Desk

Ruth Marcus and David Brooks Smoke Pot: A Play in One Act


"For a little while in my teenage years, my friends and I smoked marijuana. It was fun."—David Brooks, the New York Times, Jan. 2, 2014

"Next time I’m in Colorado, I expect, I’ll check out some Bubba Kush. Why not?"—Ruth Marcus, the Washington Post, Jan. 2, 2014

SETTING: June, 2014. The bar of the Aspen Institute campus, in Aspen, Colo. The sun is receding behind the Rockies, but on the other side of the floor-to-ceiling glass window, an unfamiliar odor has begun to curdle the majesty of the dramatic view. Jeff Bezos sneezes. Geoffrey Canada excuses himself. Richard Florida is apoplectic. Finally, David Brooks sighs, drains his vodka martini, and confronts the disturbance.

RUTH: David!

DAVID: Ruth?

RUTH: David! Smoke this immediately.

 She passes him a joint.

DAVID: Ruth!

RUTH: David—puff it or stuff it, honey. I only bought the three joints.

DAVID: You've got to be joking. This is Aspen! There are serious people here! Elena Kagan is staring!

RUTH: Oh, don't be so square, David. I saw your column. You "aged out" and "left marijuana behind?" Big whoop. Here, I was just reading it on my phone...where is that thing...there! Wait, why did I want my phone...Ah, your column! David, you wrote: "I don’t have any problem with somebody who gets high from time to time, but I guess, on the whole, I think being stoned is not a particularly uplifting form of pleasure and should be discouraged more than encouraged." Just take a puff, David.

DAVID: Fine, fine, for old time's sake. But [cough] didn't you [cough] also [cough] come out against legalization? And could you please pass me that water? [Cough] Thank you.

RUTH: Of course.

DAVID:  As I was saying, Ruth, you wrote, "an occasional joint strikes me as no worse than an occasional drink," but you also argued, "On balance, society will not be better off with another legal mind-altering substance. In particular, our kids will not be better off with another legal mind-altering substance." I agree! I might have aced that high-school English presentation, had I not been higher than, uh, the... GDP of, like... Christ, this is a cool table!

 RUTH: David, why is your cheek pressed against the window?

DAVIS: Oh, I was...sorry. Now, as I was saying...

RUTH: No, I understand. But the truth is, David—oh, will you pass that joint back?—that I may have been off. I pointed to a New Zealand study that found that persistent cannabis use—especially among those who began as adolescents—causes deleterious neurological effects. For starters, that study has been contested, but even if pot is bad for kids, well, so are cigarettes and booze. Marijuana isn't being legalized for kids. It's for adults, just like those three martinis you knocked back in the last hour, but its legalization will keep plenty of kids—mostly poor, black kids—out of jail. You want another puff?

DAVID: I can't believe I'm hearing this.

RUTH: Seriously, David. It's pretty rich for two white elites at the top of our field to admit we've smoked pot yet call for its continued prohibition—it certainly didn't prevent us from excelling in life!—all while ignoring the broader context. Eighty-eight percent—88!—of the nation's 8.2 million marijuana arrests are for possession. That is insane, David. And I don't need to remind you that black people are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than white people, even though they use it about equally. Did you even read that ACLU study? I suppose I'm somewhat swayed by your argument that government ought to discourage some behaviors and encourage others, but all things even, that's the type of case you could only make if you were in no danger of having your life ruined by the war on drugs. And besides: This Bubba Kush is delicious.

DAVID: Well, you've got a point there, at least.

RUTH: Now, David, I've been thinking hard about what I wrote about Edward Snowden...

Weed photo via Shutterstuck

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