January 4, 2014

MSNBC host Chris Hayes responded Friday to New York Times columnist David Brooks' op-ed piece on why he doesn't smoke pot anymore, and gave a powerful account of how race and luck helped him escape arrest at a huge political event.

Hayes attended the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, and ran into a little bit of trouble at the security check-in. He unintentionally had a bag of weed in his luggage, and although he was caught by police, he wasn't arrested and even had his weed returned to him.

Hayes said that perhaps the cops thought he was a senator's son; an incident with "a whole bunch of headaches" that they "didn't need" on a night with greater security concerns.

"I can tell you as sure as I am sitting here before you that if I was a black kid with cornrows instead of a white kid with glasses, my ass would've been in a squad car faster than you can say George W. Bush," Hayes said emphatically.

The Brooks' op-ed surmised that the legalization of weed in Colorado was "nurturing a moral ecology in which it is a bit harder to be the sort of person most of us want to be." Hayes countered that argument, saying that "The one kind of person most people don't want to be is a person caught in the criminal justice system."

An ACLU report, "The War On Marijuana In Black And White," shows that even though blacks and whites use marijuana at similar rates, black people are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for possession, adding clout to Hayes' belief that if he hadn't been a white kid with glasses, he would have left the 2000 RNC in a squad car. And he surely wouldn't have gotten his weed back.

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