The challenges of being married to a drug addict seems like the subject for a sober article. But recently The New York Times decided to publish a lighthearted piece in its Style section on the topic. 

“Like many spouses, Kindred Sparks has a list of marital grievances. But hers are not like everyone else’s,” the article begins. “There was the time when her husband, Peter Pietrangeli, left an envelope with thousands of dollars in cash on the roof of his car and drove off. Or the time he left their son’s car seat on the side of the road.”

Ha ha. No word whether her son was actually in it. 

Sparks explains: “Being married to a stoner can really be frustrating. It really tests your patience when you’re clearheaded and when your partner is not.”

Can you imagine this article being written about a spouse addicted to opioids or cocaine? Of course not, because we take those drugs seriously. We hear all the time about the dangers of overdoses and the shortage of addiction treatment options. But when it comes to cannabis use in the states where recreational marijuana is now legal, the whole situation is just a punchline. 

Of course, it’s possible to smoke pot or eat gummies every once in a while without losing track of your responsibilities as an adult. But the people who were interviewed for this story are regular users and it’s clear that they are having real trouble functioning. Sparks’ husband apparently goes to Costco while high and comes back with a lot of groceries their family (including two young children) do not need. The story doesn’t say whether he drives to Costco while high. 

In another couple interviewed for the story, he lights up but she doesn’t. He thinks that his pot use has led to deep conversations that have improved their relationship. But she doesn’t want to smoke at all. She finds it annoying at social occasions when he disappears for 20 minutes at a time. Fortunately, she “developed a ‘just go-with-the-flow’ attitude toward her husband’s marijuana use.” They now have two young daughters and he continues to smoke at least twice a day.

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The idea that these (mostly) women have simply adjusted to habitual drug use on the part of their partners, not to mention the fathers of their children, is sad and frankly dangerous. For large portions of the day, they cannot trust these dads to supervise their children, let alone drive them anywhere or make any important decisions. (The gender gap among pot users is fairly significant, with 20% of men partaking compared to 14% of women.)

Our cultural attitudes and laws regarding pot have become increasingly lackadaisical, even as the potency of cannabis has grown and research on the harmful effects has become clearer. Take a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, which described how more and more people are using cannabis to treat anxiety. A survey last year found that “among the 54% of respondents who said they had ever used cannabis, 41% of them said they consumed cannabis to reduce anxiety.” But the article noted that there was no evidence that this was effective and that in the long term, cannabis use may actually increase anxiety. 

Moreover, “Among people who reported using marijuana in the past year, about 30% have cannabis use disorder. … Marijuana use can become a disorder when people need to use an increasing amount to get the same effect and when the use interferes with work and relationships, among other symptoms.”

Maybe that includes the kids in New York whom teachers report show up high to school on a daily basis. According to the New York Post, “Incidents involving illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia, alcohol and unauthorized use of possession of controlled substances or prescription medications … increased 17% in the 2022-2023 school year compared to the year before.”

The folks in The New York Times article seem to be describing a disorder as well. Their partners cannot effectively function in work or relationships. In fact, it’s not clear how these are real partnerships at all. And by the way, these are intact families, with jobs and resources and enough of a safety net to be tracked down by a New York Times Style section reporter. Imagine what pot use is doing for relationships in communities where marriage is already uncommon, where people are less likely to be employed or be educated. Imagine the havoc this is wreaking on their lives. 

“It really tests your patience when you’re clearheaded and when your partner is not,” Sparks said. No kidding. 

Naomi Schaefer Riley is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Deseret News contributor and the author of “No Way to Treat a Child: How the Foster Care System, Family Courts, and Racial Activists Are Wrecking Young Lives,” among other books.