Prohibition history lesson

Dear Editor:In November, voters can vote on Prop. 19, the marijuana legalization initiative that would allow adults ages 21 and older to possess, grow and transport marijuana, and allow cities and countries to regulate and tax commercial sale of it. With the publicity and ballyhoo that will accompany this proposition, it's time to review some history of prohibition in the United States. Prohibition, also known as the Noble Experiment, was an important force in state and local politics from the 1840s through the 1930s. It was supposed to lower crime and corruption, reduce social problems, lower taxes needed to support prisons and poorhouses, and improve health and hygiene in America. People in the country thought eliminating alcohol would solve all of society's problems. Some religious groups considered saloons as politically corrupt and drinking gas a personal sin. Many social problems have been attributed to the prohibition era. Making alcohol at home was common during prohibition. People made home-distilled hard liquor referred to as "bathtub gin." They grew grapes, which they pressed in their homemade juice extractors then fermented it into wine. People made home brew, which they filled and capped in their own bottles. As a youth, this writer lived in south Chicago. I shall never forget being upstairs listening to one of those new fangled devices - a radio. While we listened to an exciting new program, a bottle of Dad's home brew in the basement would blow up. It sounded like a hand grenade had gone off. When repeal of prohibition occurred in 1933, organized crime lost all of their black market alcohol profits because of competition with low-priced alcohol sales at legal liquor stores. Even prominent citizens and politicians later admitted they used alcohol during prohibition. President Harding kept the White House stocked with bootleg liquor, though, as a senator, he had voted for prohibition. This discrepancy between legality and practice led to widespread contempt for authority. Maybe that great philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist George Santayana had it right when he said, "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - Byron Dillon, Downey

********** Published: July 22, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 14

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