Yeah, I’ve smoked weed (and haven’t gotten in trouble ‘cuz I’m white)

I am one of the 41% of Americans who’ve smoked marijuana at some point in their lives. Mostly in college. I’ve never been big into it. For me, it’s like going to a mediocre genre flick: enjoyable, something I’ll do if it’s what my friends want to do but not something I seek out.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for awhile, but put it off largely due to being in Asia, much of which makes the US look like the Netherlands with respect to drug policy. What finally made me feel like I had to write this post was this story via Ed Brayton:

A top Bronx cop was caught on tape telling an NYPD whistleblower to specifically target “male blacks 14 to 21” for stop-and-frisk because they commit crimes.

Stop “the right people, the right time, the right location,” Deputy Inspector Christopher McCormack is heard saying on the recording.

“He meant blacks and Hispanics,” Officer Pedro Serrano, who made the secret recording, testified Thursday in Manhattan federal court.

“So what am I supposed to do: Stop every black and Hispanic?” Serrano was heard saying on the tape, which was recorded last month at the 40th Precinct in the Bronx.

McCormack said to focus on the Mott Haven section, where the problem “was robberies and grand larcenies.”

“I have no problem telling you this,” the inspector said on the tape. “Male blacks. And I told you at roll call, and I have no problem [to] tell you this, male blacks 14 to 21.”

The racism of the US war on drugs is by no means confined to a few bad cops. One of the things that has made Ed absolutely invaluable as a blogger is his coverage of how the racism of the drug war shows up in all the statistics. I strongly recommend Racism and the War on Drugs and his post series America’s Racist Criminal Justice System (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4).

The short version, though, is this: even though there’s some evidence that young black people are less likely to use drugs than whites, things are more likely to go badly for them in every step of the criminal justice system.

Against this backdrop, I feel a moral obligation to stand up and say, “yeah, I’ve smoked weed” if I can do it with little consequences to myself, which I can now that working for the Incheon Metropolitan Office of Education is six months in the past. As many people as possible, especially white and middle class people as possible, need to say it, so that white and middle class voters realize that if the laws were applied fairly, it would be their kids having their lives messed up over non-violent offenses.

I write this knowing that there’s a significant probability I’m going to get a freaked out phone call from my parents about it. So Mom & Dad, if you’re reading this, I have something to say to you: don’t. Don’t even start with me on this one. I mean it.

Yeah, I recognize there’s a chance that a future potential employer could see this post and not hire me, or maybe lead to more harassment at the border next time I travel abroad, or something. But those are minor consequences compared to what happens to people who aren’t white and comfortably upper-middle class for their drug offenses. A small price to pay for doing what I can to make a difference on this issue.

So if you want something to freak out about, Mom and Dad, don’t freak out about the fact that I’ve written this blog post. Go freak out about our racist criminal justice system and drug war.

  • MNb

    “like the Netherlands with respect to drug policy.”
    Thanks for the compliment, but I’m afraid this belongs to the past.

    I never smoked as I got sick my first pull of tobacco.

  • smrnda

    I myself have done drugs, and many of my friends did as well. As a bunch of college students, we weren’t subject to police harassment, and the cops didn’t treat campus as some sort of occupied territory where civil rights didn’t apply and where we had to put up with ‘stop and frisk.’

    And if college kids got caught? They usually got out of trouble because of paying a fine $$$ or taking credit for community service already done. A few did get screwed, but overall, the doing and selling and manufacture of drugs went on without much interference.

  • Chris


    This is the second post I have seen you make that has absolutely NOTHING to do with atheism. If you want to post about racism, drugs, and getting frisked at the airport, may I recommend starting another blog.

    • Chris Hallquist


      If this is the second post you’ve seen me make that has nothing to do with atheism, you haven’t been reading my blog very long. In fact, it tells me you haven’t been reading any blogs very long. Lots of bloggers do off topic posts about whatever they happen to care about: see JT Eberhard blogging about video games or Leah Libresco blogging about musical theater or really any other blogger on the planet.

      That, or you’re just trolling and I should disemvowell you.

  • Chris

    You’re right. I don’t read many blogs, and with good reason. I’m one of those insufferable elitists who . . . you know, wants to read about atheism when he reads about atheism. But hey, if that’s how bloggers roll, that’s fine with me.

    By the way, as long as you’re in South Korea, I’d suggest checking out out Itaewon. There’s a great restaurant called “Gekko’s” right next to Itaewon station. It’s not the nicest place in the world and I couldn’t stand people blowing smoke in my face, but they serve some great western food. I know what I’m saying is completely off-topic (as it has nothing to do with drugs or racism), but . . . well, it’s a blog, right?

    Also, what’s your favorite color and who do you think is going to win the NBA playoffs? I’m rooting for the Celtics because I’m from Boston. Did you know that the Celtics hold more NBA championships than any other team in the NBA? Amazing, huh?

    • Chris Hallquist

      I understand that you’re attempting to be clever, but generally I insist comments be on-topic unless it’s an open thread. I get to make rules like that, while not applying them to myself, because it’s my blog.

    • MNb

      It’s too obvious to spell out, but if an article doesn’t interest me for whatever reason I don’t read it.
      Definitely a troll. Just look at his nick. Ignore him or ban him.

  • jay

    As a side point, not to dispute that there is racism involved, but the charts displayed have a curious shift of definition. While it’s quite possible to get a count of prisoners (chart 2), counts of drug users is by nature quite subjective, so chart 1 is inherently less reliable.
    Additionally according to the labels, chart 1 is ‘users’ while chart 2 is ‘prisoners’. They are not equally sampled. While users do sometimes get jail, they are much less vigorously prosecuted, and get shorter sentences than people in the drug business. Consequently with any random sampling, dealers will make up a much larger portion of the prison population than simple users. The charts, assuming they are correctly labelled, are not directly comparable.