Marijuana Policy Project

Almost Busted for Pot in 2000, Chris Hayes Says, 'My Privilege Kept Me Free'

Chris Hayes on his near pot bust in 2000: "I’m pretty damn lucky I did not get arrested that night. My privilege kept me free."

David Brooks' pot column in the New York Times is being widely criticized for his myopic point of view. MSNBC talk-show host Chris Hayes was so incensed by Brooks that he revealed his own near marijuana bust in 2000 on All In last night.

When Hayes was 21 he attended the Republican National Convention with his father-in-law in Philadelphia. As they waited on line to enter First Union Center (now Wells Fargo Center), Hayes realized he had a small amount of pot in his bag that was about to be checked. The security guard found the weed inside his eyeglasses case. But rather than being apprehended, the guard waved Hayes on.

"If I was a black kid with cornrows instead of a white kid with glasses my ass would have been in a squad car faster than you can say George W. Bush," Hayes exclaimed. "So, yeah, David Brooks, smoking weed with your buddies had no consequences for you and your crew. But that's the entire point. It has very real consequences for lots of people. Black people and white people use marijuana at roughly the same rate, and yet black people are four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. So while thousands of junior David Brookses do bong hits in dorm rooms, there are thousands of kids on the streets of the Southside of Chicago and Harlem and Compton getting their first charge on a marijuana possession, getting entered into the system with a record and a court date, begin marked early as a certain kind of person. This is just one in a number of insidious ways that our laws are used to sort our society, pushing some people from certain backgrounds into one category and the David Brookses and, hell, Chris Hayeses of the world into the other. You - you go to college. You - you go to court. I'm pretty damn lucky I did not get arrested that night. My privilege kept me free. I wish Brooks realizes how lucky he was too."

In Brooks' column, he admits his teenaged marijuana use. However, he now says. "We gave it up, first, because we each had a few embarrassing incidents… second, I think, because one member of our clique became a full-blown stoner… something sad had happened to him as he sunk deeper into pothead life. Third, most of us developed higher pleasures… Finally, I think we had a vague sense that smoking weed was not exactly something you were proud of yourself for. It's not something people admire… So, like the vast majority of people who try drugs, we aged out. We left marijuana behind."

Brooks' comments were in reaction to legal sales of marijuana which began in Colorado on Jan. 1. "In legalizing weed, citizens of Colorado are, indeed, enhancing individual freedom," he concluded. "But they are nurturing a moral ecology in which it is a bit harder to be the sort of person most of us want to be."

Brooks is entitled to his opinion, but he is way out of his league and understanding here. Perhaps he needs to try marijuana again and then rewrite his preposterous and reviled column.

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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.