Sunday, December 30, 2012

Prohibition Ends - Looking Back to See Forward

They say the only thing new is the history that you don’t know. Well, here’s a bit of history which will serve to jog the memories of even the most die-hard defenders of this country’s draconian and useless War on Drugs. Within the first minute of this video, then Governor of New York; Al Smith; sums it up dramatically when he states  his hopes,  that in the future generations, “no such matter as this is ever again made the subject of federal constitutional law.” That’s a pretty strong statement, and begs the question of how did we let it happen again with reference to marijuana?
Most Americans think that the Volstead Act ended on New Year’s Eve of 1933 going on ‘34.  But the repeal of the 18th Amendment by the 21st, was actually signed by President Roosevelt on March 22, 1933 with a stated date of December 5, 1933 for the repeal to actually take effect. People were looking forward to a very legal Happy New Year for the first time in more than a decade.

But what happened to marijuana? Up until the Food and Drug Act of 1933; which came along just as alcohol was coming back; marijuana was legal. It was the staple of musicians everywhere, and had been openly smoked for years during the 1920’s. But, just as the Volstead Act came to a close, the new Prohibition began. And replacing the gangsters of old; with their drive by shootings and gambling casinos; we were ushered into a new age of Prohibition on marijuana.
There were no more drive by shootings; that didn’t happen until the cocaine and heroin epidemic hit the country in the late 20th Century. Those two drugs were the original target of the Food and Drug Act. They are narcotics; that is, they produce narcoleptic effects in the user. Marijuana works in a totally different way on the mind and body, and should never have been included in the Food and Drug Act in the first place. So, why was it?
The answer to that can also be found in the first minute of this film as they speak of the half a million jobs which will be created by the repeal of the Volstead Act. Nobody wanted to put a dent into creating any jobs in the alcohol industry. We were in the midst of a Great Depression, and every job counted. The incorrect perception of marijuana smokers sitting around idly; without buying any liquor; was a threat to the plan to put America back to work.

Fast forward almost 80 years later and what do we see? We see the same history repeating itself over again. The War on Drugs clearly does not work. The country needs jobs. All of the same ingredients which went into repealing the 18th Amendment are in place once more. With so many states taking up the issue of legalization, it is my hope that 2013 will show some progress towards removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances nation-wide. Aside from the jobs which will be created from the smoking of marijuana, think of all of the other uses for the by-products of the plant. They range from plastics and epoxies, to clothing and even bio-fuels. And the taxes alone would amount to a tidy sum that could be ear-marked to reduce our staggering $16 trillion debt. Think of it – puffing patriotically on the 4th of July to save America. Ah, pipe dreams…..

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