In Defense of Maureen Dowd's Risible Col About Her Bad Trip on a Pot-Laced Candy Bar


Last night, a good chunk of Twitter was abuzz with the release of a new New York Times column from Maureen Dowd. The Pulitzer Prize-winner had traveled to Colorado, chowed down on a chocolate bar packed with legal pot and…had a real bummer of a trip:

I felt a scary shudder go through my body and brain. I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours. I was thirsty but couldn't move to get water. Or even turn off the lights. I was panting and paranoid, sure that when the room-service waiter knocked and I didn't answer, he'd call the police and have me arrested for being unable to handle my candy.

I strained to remember where I was or even what I was wearing, touching my green corduroy jeans and staring at the exposed-brick wall. As my paranoia deepened, I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me.

Other than sharing, it's not exactly clear what the point of Dowd's column was. There was the snide headline which she probably didn't write ("Don't harsh our mellow, dude") and a lot of lines about the rise in emergency-room visits from new-to-edibles customers such as Dowd. And then this:

The state plans to start testing to make sure the weed is spread evenly throughout the product. The task force is discussing having budtenders give better warnings to customers and moving toward demarcating a single-serving size of 10 milligrams. (Industry representatives objected to the expense of wrapping bites of candy individually.)

"My kids put rocks and batteries in their mouths," said Bob Eschino, the owner of Incredibles, which makes candy and serves up chocolate and strawberry fountains. "If I put a marijuana leaf on a piece of chocolate, they'll still put it in their mouths."

He argues that, since pot goodies leave the dispensary in childproof packages, it is the parents' responsibility to make sure their kids don't get hold of it.

"Somebody suggested we just make everything look like a gray square so it doesn't look appealing. Why should the whole industry suffer just because less than 5 percent of people are having problems with the correct dosing?"

Does he sound a little paranoid?

Whole piece here.

It's easy to make fun of Dowd as an aging baby boomer hipster who doesn't know how to handle her own dosing. For instance, former Times man Nate Silver dug up a 1921 Times story headlined:

New York Times headline: "MEXICAN FAMILY GO INSANE.; Five Said to Have Been Stricken by Eating Marihuana" http://t.co/Hp5Ukroflh

— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) June 4, 2014

He followed that up with this one:

I hope she expensed it. http://t.co/DhrGtYO6zH

— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) June 4, 2014

I myself was more than happy to sling some snark at Dowd and her Times colleagues, who often come across so square they're more like hexagons.

But Dowd's column—and her admirable willingness to talk frankly about her experience in all its inglory—raises real issues about the process by which pot legalization will be vetted. The fact is, there's a societal learning curve that's every bit as real as individual learning curves. It takes a while, and oftentimes a lot of trials and errors, for a society to figure out how to deal with major changes (divorce, gender and racial equality, etc.). 

The sooner we acknowledge that the end of pot prohibition will require a lot of conversation about what works well and what doesn't, the faster the new normal of "marijuana on Main Street" will be accepted for the huge leap forward in freedom and peace that it really represents.

Related: Reason's brand-spanking-new special landing page of original articles, videos, and resources about every aspect of pot legalization.