Pubdate: Wed, 21 Aug 2013
Source: Hartford Courant (CT)
Copyright: 2013 The Hartford Courant
Author: Robert M. Thorson
Note: Robert M. Thorson is a professor of geology at the University 
of Connecticut's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. His column 
appears every other Thursday.


Prohibition doesn't work. Not in alcohol. Not in marijuana. Human 
nature is just too natural for such prohibitions to work beyond the 
scale of individuals and families.

This is what the Oglala Sioux Tribe decided last week in a historic, 
and extremely close referendum at the infamous Pine Ridge Reservation 
in South Dakota. For the first time in 124 years, and after months of 
intense campaigning, they decided to permit the sale of "firewater." 
Why? Because bootlegged booze has created "some of the highest rates 
of alcoholism in Indian Country and alcoholism is often connected 
with the high rate of domestic abuse, suicide, birth defects and 
violent crime on the reservation." This quote comes from the Rapid 
City Journal on Aug. 15, which headlined this story.

By legalizing sales, the tribe will have the power to bankrupt the 
predatory liquor stores that line the edge of the reservation; 
regulate consumption, especially for children and pregnant women; and 
raise tax revenue for programs dealing with substance abuse and fetal 
alcohol syndrome. The Journal article featured a great-grandmother as 
the primary caretaker for her great-grandchildren because her 
granddaughter is alcoholic. Nevertheless, she and 1,678 others voted 
to keep the reservation "dry" to prevent even worse conditions. Worse 
than what? Three generations out of commission instead of two? 
Luckily, a slight majority of 1,843 voters carried the day to create 
a "wet" reservation.

This was big news for me last week because I was visiting family in 
my hometown of Bemidji, Minn., which has a large population of Native 
Americans, many of whom still resemble the historic photographs of 
ethnologist Edward Curtis. The largest nearby reservation, Red Lake, 
remains dry, even though it hurts their casino revenues and has done 
little to restrict the social damage of alcohol.

The dry status of Red Lake echoes the 18th Amendment to the U.S. 
Constitution, which banned alcohol sales on the premise that society 
would benefit. The new wet status of Pine Ridge echoes the 21st 
Amendment, which repealed that law because the negative consequences 
outweighed the positive, most importantly the flagrant disregard for 
the rule of law by otherwise law-abiding citizens.

The Pine Ridge vote also echoes recent trends in marijuana 
legislation. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have 
legalized medical marijuana even though the federal government 
doesn't recognize the benefit. Connecticut is among them. In fact, 
East Hartford is considering an enormous facility for growing medical 
weed. The community stands to benefit from the new jobs and taxable 
revenue. Connecticut and 16 other states have decriminalized 
possession even though pot remains illegal at the federal level. And 
two states, Washington and Colorado, have legalized adult possession. 
In fact, a pot festival was underway in Seattle when I wrote this 
column, and the police were handing out munchies instead of 
citations. Given these trends, it's only a matter of time before the 
prohibition against marijuana is repealed nationally.

This will not come without social costs. As parent, I fear for the 
neurological consequences of heavy pot use on teenage brains. As a 
teacher, I fear for the work ethic of a rising generation. As a 
citizen, I fear for the loss of workplace efficiency, the higher 
incidence of workplace accidents, and for the associated costs that I 
will share as a taxpayer.

Obviously, there is no good solution at the government level. 
Prohibition creates more problems than it solves. Regulation is 
costly and onerous. The only good solution is personal choice.

Like most of my cohort, I have personally experienced the pleasures 
of alcohol and marijuana use, and have witnessed the dangers 
associated with their abuse. For me, the disadvantages of both 
substances outweigh their advantages. I'm better off without alcohol 
because it was cramping my style and putting me to sleep. And, I'm 
better off without dope because - when I dallied with it decades ago 
- - it distorted my reality and robbed me of my initiative.

Without my initiative, I'd be little more than a lotus-eater mooching 
off others.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom