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think the next generations will want to hear amusing stories about the pot farmers, if and when the marijuana laws are "repealed?"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.
The marijuana "industry," on the other hand, seems grim by comparison. The headlines are anything but whimsical. Houses in "good" neighborhoods catching fire from grow lights, bodies with bullet holes in them found in remote corners of the north counties, medical debates about damage to young brains. And so far, no happy ending on the horizon.
So I guess it's fair to muse about how all this will be remembered
80 years from now. Certainly time has smoothed the very rough edges of Prohibition, with its exploding stills, dead bodies (sometimes it seemed like most of Chicago was either shooting or being shot), and people dead or blind from drinking homemade hooch.
Prohibition is a challenge for historians. Daniel Okrent's book, "Last Call," covers the issues involved with a good measure of irony and a jigger of wry.
The folklore — the stories passed from parents and grandparents — bubble up at the very mention of the word.
SONOMA COUNTY'S geography and demography make it a treasure trove of these stories. There are "dog-hole" coves all along the coast that were perfect for launches carrying Canadian whiskey. There were stills in the hills and bootleg whiskey "ageing" in many a dairy's manure pile. The fertile valleys had attracted a sizable number of European immigrants who had a hard time believing that the wine they made and sold (250 bonded wineries here when Prohibition began in 1919) could possibly be illegal.