Encountering Frances FitzGerald’s new edition of Fire in the Lake brought back all sorts of unpleasant memories: memories of burning buildings set ablaze by student protestors, of burning draft cards, of burning cannabis. For Fire in the Lake was very much the product of an era that idolized not only protest and anti-Americanism, but also the consumption of mind-altering drugs.

There has lately been a renewal of the debate over whether at least one of those drugs, namely marijuana, should be legalized. We do not propose to enter into that debate, exactly, though we would, in a kind of amicus curiae role, like to present the following report from an August number of The New York Times. It comes from a story about a six-month experiment in easing the laws against marijuana in parts of London. People caught smoking marijuana were to be let off with a warning instead of suffering arrest, the idea being to free the police for more serious business. David Reading, a “would-be record producer just out of college,” explained that he and his friends “really don’t see [marijuana] as a drug at all.”

Mr. Reading, who partook heartily of the non-drug as he spoke to the reporter from the Times, speculated that smoking marijuana helped him become more adept at skateboarding. “It’s not a dis—what’s the word?—well, I still have my balance,” Mr. Richards confided. “Although sometimes days go by—and before you know it a week’s gone by, and you haven’t done anything you’re supposed to do, like get a job.” Surely there’s a moral here?

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 21 Number 1
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