Pubdate: Fri, 02 Aug 2013
Source: News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)
Copyright: 2013 The News and Observer Publishing Company
Author: Bob Christensen


North Carolina has always had a split attitude toward recreational
drug use: Tobacco is OK, alcohol not so much. Now more attention is
being focused on a third widely used drug - marijuana.

It is now legal to buy marijuana in Colorado and Washington. The
venerable New York Times recently called for its national

Even the sharply conservative North Carolina legislature recently took
a modest, noncontroversial step by allowing patients with persistent
seizures to be treated with cannabidiol extracted from hemp, as long
as they qualify for pilot studies. The law allows selected
universities in the state to grow cannabis for study.

But based on history, North Carolina is likely to be one of the last
states in the country to legalize pot, if it ever does so. That is
because while North Carolina is a forward-thinking state in many ways
- - education, research and culture, for example - it is also very
socially conservative.

Prohibition leader

North Carolina was the first state in the South to vote for
Prohibition - 62-38 percent in 1908 - going dry more than a decade
before Prohibition became the national law in 1920.

The state was kept dry by a powerful political coalition of preachers
and bootleggers. (My first sip of alcohol was from a Mason jar, the
product of a bootlegger.)

Prohibition was repealed nationally in 1933, but North Carolina never
voted to repeal. In fact, North Carolina voted 293,484 to 120,120
against considering ratification of the repeal amendment.

However, since it was the law of the land, the 1935 legislature agreed
to set up a state-run monopoly of Alcoholic Beverage Control stores,
with the first one opening in Wilson on July 2, 1935.

The North Carolina legislature did not permit the sale of cocktails
until 1978 - the last state to prohibit what was called "liquor-by-the
drink" except for Oklahoma. I covered that debate, as a well-known
drunk stood up on the Senate floor and roared against the evils of
"demon rum" for the benefit of church-going constituents back home.
One lawmaker warned that if cocktails were allowed, textile workers
would soon be enjoying three-martini lunches, and what would that do,
he asked, to North Carolina's work ethic?

Attitudes shifting

There are plenty of other signs of North Carolina's social
conservatism. North Carolina was the last state on the East Coast to
adopt a state lottery. The North Carolina legislature voted against
federal constitutional amendments extending women the right to vote in
1920 and the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s. It also voted for a
state constitutional amendment affirming in 2012 that a marriage was
between a man and a woman.

But even in North Carolina, you can see attitudes beginning to change
toward marijuana.

A plurality of North Carolinians, 48 percent, don't think marijuana
should be legal, while 42 percent favor it, according to a survey
conducted in January by Public Policy Polling. The poll was sponsored
by the North Carolina chapter of the National Organization for the
Reform of Marijuana Laws.

But the poll did find that 63 percent believe doctors should have the
right to prescribe marijuana for medical use - up from 58 percent a
year ago.

So while public opinion may be moving on the subject, don't expect
Rocky Mountain high to become Rocky Mount high.
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