D.C. Elites Are Worried About Marijuana Smoking Etiquette, Not So Much About the Drug War


"At a time when smoking marijuana is increasingly mainstream, legal and socially acceptable, when and where to inhale is a question flummoxing regular smokers, part-time partakers and nonsmokers alike," writes Kyle Spencer in the Washington Post.

In many parts of the country, marijuana users are flummoxed about how to explain their arrest records to current and future employers, how to regain custody of their children from the state, how to make all their drug court appearances, how to pay mandatory substance abuse counseling fees, and how to get their seized vehicles returned so that they can go to work and drug court and mandatory substance abuse counseling. 

In D.C., marijuana users are worried about etiquette: 

A new challenge is figuring out how we're all supposed to navigate dinners, cocktail parties, barbecues and cross-generational family get-togethers as more people liken puffing on a joint to sipping a glass of wine, while others still consider it a malodorous habit that's best done not at all, or at least far from our house.

Here in D.C., it is far from a partisan debate, something that both Republicans and Democrats struggle with. "It's a cross-party issue," said a 27-year-old aide to a GOP congressman who, like many interviewed for this story, preferred not to give her name, further highlighting people's discomfort with this subject. She says she smokes often at home, but does so without telling her ultraconservative, 50-something boss, her co-workers, or even many of her friends. "It's really hard to know how people stand on it."

If you've ever wondered why Washington, D.C. is so languorous about confronting our failed war on drugs, it's because there is no war on drugs in Washington, D.C. Not if you're white, that is. At every party I've been to since moving to D.C.–so many parties, dear reader!–pot was present. The party G. Gordon Liddy's producer threw in Northern Virginia? People smoked pot there. The house-warming party hosted by an active duty air force officer? People smoked pot there, too. I've seen an Obama speechwriter smoke pot, and a McCain advisor smoke pot, and I even smoked pot with a congressional staffer whose boss was working on anti-marijuana legislation. (All of us are going to hell.) 

That's not to say D.C. is Haight-Ashbury. White elites can, if they're obnoxiously indiscreet, catch some heat. But even the heat is different. CBS reporter Howard Arenstein and his wife learned that in 2010 when a Georgetown neighbor called the cops to report the 11 massive, stinky marijuana plants growing in Arenstein's backyard. In many states, 11 plants would be more than enough for jail time. In D.C., the arresting officer didn't bother to show up to Arenstein's hearing, so his charges were dropped

Is it any wonder that pot-smoking elites in D.C. worry more about party fouls than the externatlities of the drug war? As far as these people concerned, there is no drug war.