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LeBARON: Pot and a previous time of prohibition

  • Detective John Pemberton, right, was the county's 'enforcer' of Prohibition law. Here he's joined by a pair of federal agents at a 'manufacturing site.' (Vern Silvershield)

Detective John Pemberton, right, was the county’s “enforcer” of Prohibition law. Here he’s joined by a pair of federal agents at a “manufacturing site.”

Eric captioned the photo and put it into staff photos

Do you think the next generations will want to hear amusing stories about the pot farmers, if and when the marijuana laws are “repealed?”

This question came to me last week when I realized that 80 Junes ago, much of the political talk in this country was about Repeal, with a capital R.

That’s shorthand for the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, which erased from the justice system the 18th Amendment, known as Prohibition.

In June 1933, California voted to ratify Repeal, putting it among the first clutch of the then-48 states to vote for an end to Prohibition.

Ratification was a historic event, the only repeal ever of a previous amendment. It was accomplished in December of ’33 when Utah, of all places, became the 36th state to say yes, achieving the necessary three-fourths majority required for ratification in the then-48-state union.

Repeal! — almost always written with an exclamation point — nullified the 18th Amendment, which had made it illegal to manufacture, import, export, buy or sell alcoholic beverages.

It isn’t often that citizens get a chance to right a wrong.

FOR TODAY’S CITIZENS who support the legalization of marijuana, there is a temptation to compare. Certainly there are similarities. The pot question is a little bit like Prohibition — debates about health concerns, a rise in criminal activity, millions of dollars in untaxed income.

The proponents of legalization like to remind us that Repeal was a happy ending to the Prohibition story.

Historians and tellers of old tales make sure that what we remember is that 14 years of the so-called “Noble Experiment” were regarded as a kind of adventure, impossible to police and hard to take seriously. Even the news stories of the raids and the stings and the arrests seemed to be written tongue-in-cheek.

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