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Repeal That Silly Prohibition on Pot


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Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Author: Sarah S. Forth
Published: December 11, 2004
Copyright: 2004 Los Angeles Times
Contact: [email protected]

As I read last month about the arguments before the Supreme Court for and against medical marijuana, I couldn't help thinking about Grandfather Swoyer's still.

Partial to whiskey and with Prohibition threatening his supply lines, Fred Swoyer came up with a way to maintain an inventory. Yes, this was in northern Kentucky, but don't think "hillbilly." Grandfather was a 32nd Degree Mason, a Shriner and, later, president of the town school board.

He was also night superintendent of the railroad yards. Fred had started on the railroad as a machinist, however, and had skills he used to advantage in Project Whiskey. We still have his copper kettle: a handsome, three-gallon half-sphere.

Alas for Grandfather, Grandmother was not of the same mind, and just before the first distillation was ready she poured it all down the drain. Fred dismantled the still, and the kettle became a planter.

"What a waste!" Fred probably said at the time.

And so say I. What a waste that lawyers must argue the medical value of marijuana when what we should do is decriminalize the stuff. I understand why those representing very ill people in need of relief have not made this argument. But it is time to say what a lot of respectable folks like Fred believed: Prohibition is for the birds.

I don't make this plea to ensure my own supply. I don't use recreational drugs. Neither do I imbibe alcohol or smoke tobacco. Heck, I don't even drink coffee. I am one of those my-body-is-a-temple types or maybe I am simply of the age when getting out of bed one more day is enough of a thrill.

If I don't have a dog in this fight, then why stick my neck out? Because I hate hypocrisy. As a child of the '60s, I know enough about marijuana to see that it is no more harmful than alcohol, and probably less. I won't argue that it is not addictive. I have friends who fell in love with the weed. But they also found their way out without heavy detoxification and a lot less damage to their livers than if their drug of choice had been a six-pack.

Why are we still jailing women and men who buy and sell the stuff? Or worse, taking up valuable slots in drug treatment programs?

Forget the baloney about marijuana as a "gateway drug." That line just gets kids to try other substances once they find marijuana benign. No, the real issue with marijuana is that it is cheap pleasure anyone can grow his own. If there were a way to tax it, Gov. Arnie would secede from the union and solve our budget crunch. But unlike cocaine or heroin, the lines of supply can't be controlled.

And then there's the problem of pleasure. This country is ruled by puritanism. That is why otherwise sensible attorneys are arguing states' rights before the Supremes. On the one hand, no one can make gazillions on the substance, and on the other, it makes people feel good. And in the United States, that's bad.

In Fred's memory, his granddaughter is asking you to do what good folks throughout the U.S. did in 1933. Repeal prohibition!

Note: Sarah S. Forth teaches and writes about religion and women's studies.

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