This must be what it felt like on December 5, 1933. That was the day that Prohibition ended in the United States. Shortly after Utah had ratified the 21st Amendment (one of history’s great ironies) Under Secretary of State William Phillips signed the death certificate of the 18th Amendment. Shortly after, trucks began leaving liquor warehouses, people were able to legally purchase alcohol. Newspapers across the land heralded the moment.
A similar event took place today in Canada. As of today, Cannabis (or marijuana as we know it) is legal across Canada. Many expect that in the days to come pardons will be granted to those who have been convicted of possession of small amounts of pot.
For the past few days that has been THE news item. Trying to help people understand who can purchase, where they can purchase, when they can purchase has been major news, and provided more than a few jokes!
This has been another “border crossing” for this American who grew up with “Just Say No,” whose children went through D.A.R.E, and who just knew that drugs were bad! I remember going to college and smelling that distinctive smoke wafting from a suite mate’s room. But there were dividing lines. There were those who didn’t drink; those who drank; and those who smoked pot. Those who did “real drugs,” well we won’t even talk about them.
But as of today, in Canada, you can go to the store and take your pick of various varieties of marijuana. You can grow up to 4 plants at your home for personal use. You can smoke in public, but now while driving.
To say this is confusing…..
So what does this mean? I really don’t think anyone knows. I had a friend recently express some concern that this will be a gateway drug. That may be the case. I know that was one of the arguments I heard growing up. But many wonder if the same thing couldn’t be said of alcohol? There is an argument that alcohol is safer and less physically addictive.
There is the revenue stream that will enhance the Canadian economy. That was the driving factor behind the end of prohibition. The tax revenue from alcohol helped fun Roosevelt’s New Deal and helped pull the US out of the Great Depression. The hope in Canada is that this will bring an end to the black market, bring some regulation to the product.
The bottom line is that no one knows—neither those who believe that this is the end of the world nor those who believe we have entered into the halcyon days! We will just have to wait and see. The night that Prohibition ended President Roosevelt urged Americans not to abuse “this return of individual freedom.” He continued, “I trust in the good sense of the American people that they will not bring upon themselves the curse of excessive use of intoxicating liquors, to the detriment of health, morals and social integrity.”
We have crossed a border today in Canada. I hope that we will listen to that ancient wisdom. We will see what happens in the years to come.
At the very least we will have a lot of jokes to help us get through!