JANUARY 16, 2019. One hundred years ago today was the beginning of one of the strangest movements in U.S. history: the prohibition of alcohol.
Which of course presumed that sobriety would be the rule of the day. Somehow legislators forgot about private stills, bathtub gin and Canadian Club cruising down the east coast like roving sharks along what is now called the “bight” from Canada to Cape May, N.J., with many hidden dropping off points for small vessels.
A lot has happened in 100 years, but the decade immediately following this so-called Prohibition has gone down in history as the “Roaring 20s.” A period during which U.S. citizens were determined to demonstrate that they truly lived in “the land of the free.” It was an era of historic defiance against the last vestiges of puritanism and it did “roar.”
Private parties for the privileged, speakeasies and police payoffs turned prohibition into a travesty. The mob underworld seized the opportunity to satisfy the thirst for brews of any quality, and in some cities alcohol consumption actually increased. Mob overlords got rich, mob competition and lawlessness reigned.
It was an experiment that became a disaster, but it explained a lot about human behavior. If it makes you feel good, you’re going to get it one way or the other.
But it took 100 years for that explanation to sink in. Marijuana, the people’s choice once again, has had its prohibitions for that same time span. It was “reefer madness,” “Giggle Smoke” and “Baby Bhang” and it could get you a seven-year jail sentence just for possession.
Today, with marijuana prohibitions being removed just about everywhere, it may not create another roaring ‘20s. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest it may wind up doing just the opposite.
This is because there is no religiosity behind the prohibition, just prejudice and ignorance. It rarely leads to bar room brawls, offensive behavior or violence. Dependency is rare, according to most studies, and withdrawal symptoms are not severe. And there are no overdoses. And above all, it is controlled and out of the hands of the mobs. And medical science now calls on the weed for the treatment of many illnesses.
So no one has to fight for the right to party. Today’s Gatsby might be a humanitarian who gives his money to Oxfam, never meets Daisy and becomes a Buddhist monk and professes loving kindness for all.
– Everybody will have mellowed out.
– The NRA starts pushing paintball guns.
– Senator Mitch McConnell lightens up and admits he looks like Mr. Potato Head.
– White supremacists ask themselves why they like to tan.
– Misogynists finally understand Mother’s Day.
– Climate deniers go solar.
– Evangelicals turn their lives over to Jesus and let him choose their political party.
– Homophobes go into the closet.
– And former hippies are totally confused, “It was illegal?”