LIFE AFTER 30 

                      By Anna Quindlen 

I remember the first time I smoked marijuana. It was a summer night, and I was 
19 years old. I was a passenger in a Volkswagen (I beleive that most first drug 
experiences during the 1970's took place in a Volkswagen), and we were driving 
down a back road redolent of honeysuckle and manure. The effects of the drug 
were that I lost all feeling in my tounge and developed a craving for French 

    I would fail the reefer test. This is not as devastating as it might have 
been: I have given no serious thought to taking on the Supreme Court, and I 
don't plan to run for political office, at least not while I am in full 
possession of my faculties.  

    But I suppose, given my age, people suspect that I once used drugs. 
Certainly last month, when smoking marijuana was the topic of the week, I was 
asked my opinion on the matter so often that I began to understand how Henry 
Kissinger must feel when there is trouble in the Persian Gulf.  

    Now, however, the dust has settled; Judge Anthony Kennedy has passed the 
reefer test and can be questioned next week about important matters. And it 
occurs to me that I have never heard as much self-serving, silly nonsense in 
my life as I have heard about recreational drug use since Judge Douglas 
Ginsberg was booted out of contention for the Supreme Court and Judge Kennedy 
was booted in.  

    I'm not talking about Edwin Meese's turning his ideological pockets inside 
out, complaining, "You tell me that no one appointed to the Supreme Court has 
ever broken a law?" 

    I'm not even talking about the investigation of whether thet reefer 
madness that took place while Judge Ginsberg was in his impressionable 20's or 
his should-have-known-better 30's. (Meanwhile, the substative question-whether 
he should have handled a cable-television case for the government while he had 
investment holdings in a cable company-faded into the background. ) 

    The sorriest thing was that no one, liberal or conservative, spoke out on 
the reality of this matter. That reality, simply stated, is that there is a 
huge difference between occasional use of soft drugs and drug abuse.  

    Since we like to make everyone either a saint or a sinner, we prefer to 
take a monolihtic line: Drug use of any kind is wrong. In the past, this led to 
the well-known parental theory that the joint was the first step to the 
needle, which has proved to be nonsense in most cases, including my own.  

    Smoking marijuana tends to make you fuzzy, and I think most adolescents 
are fuzzy enough as it is. But in practice, we have to deal with a generation 
that has already used drugs.  

    For people of Judge Ginsburg's generation- and my own - there was a fairly 
common set of circumstances : some parties, perhaps the occasional evening in 
front of the stereo with the Stones or Vivaldi, friends and a joint. Then you 
have children, long working hours, a life that is, sadly, too busy and 
certainly too busy to keep track of where you put the rolling papers. you 
start to work out, watch the cholesterol.  At 19, you think you're going to 
live forever. At 35 you know you won't. Maybe it's better if you don't smoke 
anything at all.  

    Certain drugs are still part of our lives, but since they are legal, we 
don't have to think of them that way. Beaujolais nouveau, beer, Wild Turkey.  
No one asked Judge Ginsburg if he had ever drunk so much that he could not 
remember what he had done the night before. It would be nice to think that 
someone realized that the martini standard is as dumb as the reefer test . But 
the real reason I believe it didn't come up is that America often conveniently 
forgets about alcohol in it's zealotry over drugs. Between a quarter and a 
third of all Americans in recent polls said that alcohol had seriously 
affected their lives and their families. Only 9 percent said that was true of 
other drugs.  

    We accept that a stiff drink in the evening doesn't in inevitably lead to 
alcoholism, and we need to accept that the occasional use of marijuana 
doesn't inevitably lead to drug abuse. Perhaps what we also need to accept is 
that if we're that concerned, we should be raising our children as 

    I'm not a teetotaler. And I've smoked marijuana. Nowadays it seems, I'm 
supposed to stand behind the lectern and say I didn't like it, and I regret 
it.  If smoking marijuana lost me a job I'd dreamed of all my life, as it did 
for Judge Ginsburg, maybe I would regret it. But right, now I don't. I do 
regret some of the things I've done during my life- lies I've told, people 
I've hurt- but not an occasional social drug use. At the time, I enjoyed it.  

    In the years to come, there are going to be a lot of people in high 
places   who grew up during a time when people were arrested for participating 
in demonstrations, left the country to evade the draft, had abortions and 
used drugs. Some will be good people, and some will be bad people.  Some of 
the good people will have used drugs. And some of the bad people, the ones 
who would drive a steamroller over an elderly person to get where they are 
going, will be "clean as a whistle". We'll need a standard by which to judge 
all these people.  The reefer test isn't it.