Leave it to Rachel Maddow to provide one of the most well-thought-out segments on the historic passage of ballot measures in Colorado and Washington that made marijuana for recreational use legal last week. Unlike so many reactions, there was no snickering or giggling or talk of Cheetos and Goldfish from Maddow on the subject. Instead, she took a careful look at booze laws in various states and the end of alcohol prohibition — which she draws several parallels to regarding Colorado and Washington’s ending of marijuana prohibition in their states and the unknown drug policy world the United States has just entered into.
There has been much discussion about the federal response to marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington: How do the feds intend to enforce marijuana laws? Will the federal government allow state marijuana markets to bloom? Will marijuana businesses be able to have bank accounts? And much, much more. But Maddow deftly points out that the same kind of questioning and general lack of sure-footing was also present when alcohol prohibition ended in 1933.
“When prohibition ended in 1933, Americans could legally buy and sell and drink booze for the first time in thirteen years,” Maddow says. “And people were obviously psyched when prohibition ended, but there was a lot of policy to figure out in terms of how the country would sell and regulate alcohol. Would cities do it? Would states do it? The federal government? Should you have to apply for a license to sell alcohol? How old should you have to be in order to drink alcohol?”