Pubdate: Thu, 03 May 2012
Source: Now, The (Surrey, CN BC)
Copyright: 2012 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Michael Booth


They say those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.

Not as user friendly as well-worn folklore concerning the benefits of 
having two birds in your hand (aside from the inevitable guano), or 
the joys of saving pennies (soon to be removed from circulation), or 
even the specious argument for augmenting your health insurance by 
eating apples (it may actually be a clever sales pitch by apple 
growers), but sage advice nonetheless.

People in this province can identify with the sentiment behind the 
adage. The British Columbia political scene is little more than a 
recycling bin as voters take turns electing NDP or Social 
Credit/Liberal/ Insert-right-leaningcentrist-party-name-here 
governments expecting a change, only to get fed up and throw the 
bastards out a decade later when they discover that the passengers 
are the same no matter how flashy the paint job is on the clown car.

The new flavour of the month, of course, is just a rebranding of the 
same group of empty smiling faces and backroom hacks who were tossed 
from power 15 years earlier. And so the cycle continues.

Looking at the bigger picture using a much longer time frame, another 
ignored pattern of mistakes from the past is once again unfolding in 
Canada and the United States.

In the early decades of the 20th century, the temperance movement 
used its hefty political clout to lobby the governments in both 
countries to ban the production and sale of alcohol to the public.

The resulting prohibition era did not exactly unfold as the 
tee-totallers expected.

Instead of watching a utopian society unfold on a continent freed 
from the influences of the booze demon, the new laws had the opposite effect.

Just as taking away a toy makes a child want the plaything more, 
banning booze made liquor incredibly popular. By making alcohol 
illegal, the governments of the day effectively created the best 
marketing campaign for booze the world has ever seen. Whether the 
temperance folks ever had the support of the majority of citizens 
quickly became a moot question as ordinary folks sought out new 
sources of alcohol.

With the big brewers and distillers out of the game, not surprisingly 
it was the criminal element who quickly stepped up to fill the void. 
Soon, everybody knew a bootlegger or two who could provide the booze 
while the criminal gangs fought bloody wars to control the business. 
There were corrupt cops, smugglers running liquor across the border 
and gun battles in the streets over turf.

Sound familiar? Canadians came to their senses first and prohibition 
was repealed in British Columbia in 1921.

By 1927, most Canadians were free of the prohibition yoke and were 
well positioned to join in the booming booze business south of the 
49th parallel.

It took another five years for the Americans to follow suit and in 
1932 the criminals went back to more traditional business pursuits 
such as robbing banks, operating gambling schemes and running for 
political office.

Governments permitted the sale of alcohol again and promptly taxed 
the living bejeebers out of it. Now the only illegal booze is created 
by guys with hyphenated first names who operate stills near cricks and hollers.

Heck, today there are businesses where you can brew your own beer - 
as long as the government gets its cut.

So almost 80 years after the end of prohibition - 91 in British 
Columbia - what have we learned? Not much, as the ongoing crusade 
against marijuana shows.

Our society is once again dealing with the whole prohibition grand 
slam complete with corrupt officials, smugglers running weed across 
the border and gun battles in the streets over turf.

Last month, police were brought in to close off streets in Vancouver 
to accommodate the annual April 20 marijuana festival known as 4-20. 
The fact that so many people are opposed to the law that partaking in 
the illegal indulgence of marijuana is an unofficial civic holiday 
shows the war on this particular drug is a waste of time and resources.

Just as the American forces in Vietnam failed to win the hearts and 
minds of the people of that country, it is doubtful the prohibition 
of marijuana has much of an ideological foothold among the general 
population of North America.

While older citizens still support the ban, I would humbly suggest 
the antiweed message is lost on those born in the 1950s or later - 
and it's becoming less relevant with each succeeding generation.

So using history as our guide, perhaps it's time to rethink the whole 
marijuana prohibition. Legalize it and tax the heck out of it. It's 
not a perfect solution but it beats swerving to avoid bullet-riddled 
bodies in the streets.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom