Pubdate: Tue, 19 Feb 2013
Source: News-Item, The (PA)
Copyright: 2013 The News Item
Pubdate: 19 Feb 2013
Author: Paul Carpenter, the (Allentown) Morning Call McClatchy News Service
Page: 4


With Valentine's Day still fresh in our minds, thoughts naturally 
turn to retired Army Gen. John T. Thompson of Newport, Ky., who 
helped give America one of its most vivid memories of that holiday.

After serving in two wars, Thompson saw a need for a better portable 
weapon for soldiers, which he invented in 1919, which also happened 
to be the same year that a catastrophe was set in motion to create a 
huge market for his new weapon.

The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified on Jan. 19, 
1919, and it took effect the following Jan. 17, giving America Prohibition I.

Following a hellish 13 years, 10 months and 18 days, the second worst 
mistake the nation ever made was repealed, but not before a gigantic 
establishment of fabulously wealthy organized criminals was created, 
along with the similarly large establishment of corrupt politicians 
and law-enforcement people.

Rivers of blood flowed during Prohibition I, largely because of the 
.45-caliber Thompson submachine gun favored by the gangsters who 
peddled illegal booze.

The most famous episode in the war between rival gangsters came in 
Chicago on Valentine's Day 1929. Elements of Al Capone 's South Side 
Italian gang used Tommy guns to mow down seven members of Bugs 
Moran's North Side Irish gang. A shotgun also was used, but only to 
blow off the heads of two gangsters felled by the Tommy guns, to make 
sure they were dead.

In any case, thanks to the Tommy gun, Capone pretty much had the 
illegal booze business in Chicago and elsewhere all to himself, and 
that was the pattern all across the nation, where the rat-a-tat-tat 
of automatic weapons hit unprecedented levels, mostly because of gang wars.

That continued until the nation came to its senses by repealing the 18th.

Alcohol was once again legal, except in some backward Bible Belt 
states like Mississippi, and police officers had to struggle to get 
along on their salaries alone.

The next time they designed such a system, the gangsters and their 
allies were more clever. With Prohibition II, they skillfully made 
Americans believe the war on drugs was in the public's interest.

The consequences of Prohibition II, which targets drugs other than 
alcohol, have been exactly the same as those of Prohibition I, 
including bloodshed and the widespread corruption of public 
officials. The main difference is that the cabal has been far more 
effective in keeping it going.

Nobody uses Tommy guns these days, but almost all of the deadly use 
of high-powered firearms by civilians now involves the same kind of 
gang warfare the nation saw in the Roaring '20s.

Now there is panic among the gangsters and their allies. Washington 
state and Colorado have moved to legalize one drug, marijuana, and 
there is a growing sense that other areas may come to their senses as 
well. Last week, there was dramatic news along those lines in Pennsylvania.

State Sen. Daylin Leach, D- Montgomery County, formerly a lawyer and 
educator in the Lehigh Valley, has drafted legislation to make 
marijuana legal in Pennsylvania.

In 2011, he introduced a bill to provide for the medical use of 
marijuana (effective in lessening the agony of cancer patients, 
etc.), and plans a similar bill this year. The medical use of 
marijuana has been legalized in 14 other states. His dramatic new 
proposal, however, is for flat legalization.

I'll get into more detail on that issue another time, but Leach's 
legalization measure begins by stating that the reason to legalize 
and regulate marijuana is "in the interest of the efficient use of 
law enforcement resources, enhancing revenue and individual freedom."

I have doubts about how well any plan to enhance individual freedom 
will be received in Harrisburg, but it's going to be hard for any 
politician to argue, with a straight face, that the present system 
for dealing with marijuana is working well.

"The use of marijuana should be legal for persons 21 years of age or 
older and taxed," Leach's measure says, and "should be regulated in a 
manner similar to alcohol."

I have no personal stake in this. I tried marijuana many years ago 
and did not care for it. As a journalist, however, I have seen the 
aftermaths of hundreds of horrible traffic accidents and there is no 
way that marijuana could cause a hundredth as many of them as booze. 
To make booze legal and marijuana illegal is madness.

Still, under Leach's bill, "driving under the influence of marijuana 
shall remain illegal." It provides that "legitimate, state-operated 
stores, and not criminal actors, will conduct sales of marijuana." In 
other words, you could go to a state store to get pot at the same 
time you get your Mad Dog.

The measure also provides for the production of industrial hemp, a 
plant product related to marijuana plants that once served the nation 
well. George Washington grew it, the U.S. Constitution and the 
Declaration of Independence were written on it, and most rope was made of it.

Now that hemp is illegal, it is necessary to clear-cut forests to 
produce products, such as the paper you are holding in your hand. 
When and why did Americans get so crazy?

That, unfortunately, is the biggest impediment to a measure like 
Leach's. It requires sanity and integrity to go anywhere.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom