Maureen Dowd ate a large dose of a marijuana chocolate bar, freaked out, wrote about it

The New York Times columnist went to Denver, took drugs and now she's not so keen on legal pot

By Katie McDonough
Published June 4, 2014 9:51PM (UTC)
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Maureen Dowd (AP/Brian Kersey)

The column looked so innocent, like the other columns I used to love, like on Monday, when I last read a Paul Krugman column. (That Charles M. Blow column on masculinity and his teenage son was pretty good, too.)

Sitting in my apartment in Brooklyn, I took out my phone to read the New York Times. I figured since I was reading the New York Times, I should try to read a little of Maureen Dowd's latest column.

What could go wrong with a paragraph or two?

Everything, as it turned out.

Just kidding. Maureen Dowd's column did not send me into a hallucinatory state for 8 hours and leave me questioning whether or not I was dead. She just wrote a kind of confusing editorial that used a really long anecdote about her experience of being too high on pot chocolate as a way to make a point about the apparent dangers of legal pot in Colorado.

Here's her retelling of what sounds like a pretty unpleasant experience taking drugs and rubbing her corduroy pants:

But then 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.

We have all been there, sister!

Some of the claims Dowd makes in the column aren't totally accurate (you got Vox'd, Dowd), and calling a guy who owns an edibles business and seems to be making a pretty sensible point about striking a proper balance between industry regulation and consumer responsibility "paranoid" was kind of unnecessary, but that's a Dowd column for you.

"There are way too many stories of people not understanding how much they’re eating," Andrew Freedman, Colorado's director of marijuana coordination, told Dowd. (Presumably after she'd come down.) "With liquor, people understand what they’re getting themselves into. But that doesn’t exist right now for edibles for new users in the market. It would behoove the industry to create a more pleasant experience for people."

I mean, this is a fine enough point, though I don't actually agree that people "understand what they're getting themselves into" with liquor that much more than with pot, if you look at the alcohol-related injuries and deaths that occur each year. But, sure. We definitely need to educate the public about how these things work and how much you should eat or smoke and what you should be aware of in general while doing drugs. It's common sense.

It's also what Dr. Carl Hart -- a neuroscientist studying the effects of drugs and a professor of psychiatry and psychology at Columbia University -- has been saying forever about all drugs. "We need to make sure that we keep our information [on drug use] simple and age-appropriate. If we don't do this education, and [young people] use drugs, you'll have more grieving parents out there whose kid died because of an overdose," he said in a recent interview. "We have a choice to make as a society: Do we want to save people, or do we want to be moralistic and sanctimonious?"

Dowd seems to prefer the latter to the former, but here's some advice from Hart in case she ever goes back to Denver: "If you're going to use a drug, you need to make sure you start with low doses. Don't take large doses if you're getting high with an experienced drug user."


Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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Bad Trip Colorado Drug Policy Drugs Harsh My Mellow Legal Pot Man Marijuana Maureen Dowd New York Times