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
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
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
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