A couple of months ago, a friend commented as we were watching the premier of the HBO series Boardwalk Empire, which takes place just as Prohibition is going into effect, “I can’t believe this happened.” And it is somewhat mind-boggling that there was a time in American history when it was possible to build a broad political consensus in favor of outlawing the sale of alcohol, isn’t it?
I find the current consensus against legalized marijuana nearly as baffling. As Conrad Black argued the other day at National Review, it’s pretty clear that our current marijuana policy has been a failure. Proposition 19, the marijuana legalization initiative on the ballot in California today, would be a welcome step away from that failed policy (and would shift the drug policy debate in Latin America as well as the US).
Alas, Prop 19 hasn’t been polling that well — SurveyUSA’s most recent poll shows it behind, albeit within the margin of error. It’s handicapped by the overwhelming opposition of government-worshipping editorial boards — not to mention anti-Prop 19 marijuana growers, who bear more than a passing resemblance to the crooks depicted in Boardwalk Empire gleefully celebrating the Volstead Act as a lucrative black market business opportunity. I’d bet against it passing. Here’s hoping I’m wrong.