America’s decision to start legalizing marijuana has sparked much conversation about its previous decision to abolish Prohibition also known as 21st Amendment, and especially how the 1933 Cullen-Harrison Act and 2016 Proposition 64 relate. Those two referendums, respectively, were put in place to make alcohol legal in America and marijuana legal in California. California began legalizing medical marijuana in 1996, and about 20 years later, the state legalized recreational marijuana with Proposition 64 (McGreevy). California saw that other states were benefiting from taxing marijuana sales and quickly got on board. Though most of the state’s population wanted to legalize, some people still were on edge about the negative aspects of marijuana being legal. For example, marijuana can cause psychosis, affect brain development, and be a gateway drug (“California Marijuana Abuse Statistics, Rates, and Treatment.”)
Cartoonist Keith Tucker relates the legalization of marijuana to the abolition of prohibition in his political cartoon titled, “Prohibition Ends at Last!”. His cartoon reads “Marijuana now legal in Calif. Voters put an end to the 79 years of prohibition. It’s about time!” This cartoon sheds light on the new legalization of marijuana, which although welcomed by many, remains strongly opposed by others. Those supporting legalization of marijuana, like those advocating for the 21st Amendment, considered similar arguments when fighting for passage of the two laws.
The article, “California’s new legal marijuana market marks the beginning of the end for prohibition” by German Lopez explains that California’s legalization of marijuana was a long time coming (Lopez). From 57% support of Californians in 2016 to 64% support in 2018, many people are very excited about their newfound freedom using marijuana (Lopez). Moreover, California currently has the highest revenue from marijuana sales in America (Lopez). Lopez, predicts that California’s marijuana industry could be worth $5.1 billion in 2018.
For those who are for the legalization of marijuana it is easy to spot the parallels of how the 21th Amendment in 1933 and the current legalization of marijuana in California are very similar. Journalist Jonathan Boesche identifies five ways that alcohol prohibition was no different than the marijuana ban including arguments such as: 1) People will get the substance anyway; 2) Cartels will still supply people with the illegal substance; 3) Financial benefits to the public from legalization; 4) Increase of spending in the fight to keep it banned; 5) Personal liberties and people’s right to use (Boesche, Jonathan).
Each point of Boesche’s points has a parallel with arguments against the prohibition of alcohol. The power of supply and demand are evident in the cases of both alcohol ad marijuana. Suppliers know what consumers want and will sell it to them. This was evident in the early 1900’s when speakeasies opened and illegally sold alcohol to those who were willing to break the law and buy it from them. The next point Boesche brings up is cartels. If someone wants marijuana, they will find a way to get it, even if it means getting involved with drug cartels. This illegal way of getting what you want comes with other crime that goes hand in hand with cartels. Cartels are not in support of legalizing marijuana because then they would not profit on selling it illegally (Boesche, Jonathan). Boesche goes on to say that we should benefit society by legalizing marijuana and collect taxes from it. The taxes collected from marijuana would benefit the government. The government also started benefiting from collecting taxes from alcohol sales when the 21st Amendment was established. He goes on to recognize how much spending America does to fight marijuana use and how that money could be used somewhere else. We can reflect on how much we spent fighting the consumption of alcohol and see how we are repeating history by doing the same while fighting against marijuana use. Lastly, he address how the government shouldn’t be able to control what we do with our bodies as long as we don’t hurt anyone else while doing so (Boesche, Jonathan).
In California, while some people fully support the legalization of marijuana, others only support limited medical marijuana use and did not support Proposition 64. For instance, Dr. Peter Grinspoon of Harvard Medical School argues that medical marijuana can be beneficial and not even give the patient a “high.” The chemical in marijuana that induces the high is called tetrahydrocannabinol or THC (Grinspoon). The strains that patients use do not contain this chemical, and if it does there is very little of if. The extract from the plant, cannabidiol or CBD, has very few intoxicating properties (Grinspoon). Patients who use this drug find relief from insomnia, anxiety, spasticity, and pain. These are just a few examples of what marijuana can help with.
Tucker’s cartoon compares California’s legal reform regarding marijuana to the days of prohibition of alcohol. Then, the 18th amendment was in place to ban the production, sale, and use of alcohol. Another cartoonist, John Knott, also discusses the ideas of prohibition through his cartoon, “Weather Forecast for Houston: Cloudy, Possibly Showers.” Both cartoonists point out how significant it would be to change the prohibitive law. Both articles draw attention to a potential new way of life with those substances being legal. The pros eventually outweighed the cons when deciding whether or not to legalize the consumption of alcohol. Tucker points out how that is currently happening in California regarding the legalization of marijuana.
Tucker’s cartoon portrays history repeating itself with the legalization of marijuana. Many states follow behind California in legalizing marijuana for recreational use. According to Governing Magazine, as of March 2018 nine states -almost one fifth of America- have legalized recreational use of marijuana (“State Marijuana Laws in 2018 Map.”) Others still focus on the negative aspects of marijuana being available to anyone of age. His, “It’s about time” political cartoons shed light on the popular topic of legalizing marijuana use in America. “John A. Boehner, the speaker of the House from 2011 to 2015, reversed a long-held stance against marijuana legalization on Wednesday, saying on Twitter that “my thinking on cannabis has evolved” (Victor, Daniel.) This is just one example of how influential people are starting to change their long standing views of marijuana.
Boesche, Jonathan. “5 Ways Alcohol Prohibition Was No Different Than The Marijuana Ban.” Voices of Liberty, 3 May 2016, voicesofliberty.com/2015/04/13/5-ways-alcohol-prohibition-was-no-different-than-the-marijuana-ban/.
“California Marijuana Abuse Statistics, Rates, and Treatment.” San Diego Addiction Treatment Center, sdtreatmentcenter.com/california-treatment/marijuana/.
Grinspoon, Peter. “Medical Marijuana.” Harvard Health Blog, 9 Jan. 2018, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/medical-marijuana-2018011513085.
Knott, John. “Weather Forecast For Houston: Cloudy, Probably Showers.” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News 24 May 1932. Newspaper. 17 April 2018.
Knott, John F., Cartoon Scrapbook. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The University of Texas at Austin. Austin, Texas.
Lopez. “California’s New Legal Marijuana Market Marks the Beginning of the End for Prohibition.” Vox, Vox, 2 Jan. 2018, www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/1/2/16840600/california-marijuana-legalization.
Marijuana Legalization News and Political Cartoons, www.cartoonstock.com/newscartoons/directory/m/marijuana_legalization.asp.
McGreevy, Patrick. “Californians Vote to Legalize Recreational Use of Marijuana in the State.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 8 Nov. 2016, www.latimes.com/nation/politics/trailguide/la-na-election-day-2016-proposition-64-marijuana-1478281845-htmlstory.html.
“State Marijuana Laws in 2018 Map.” Governing Magazine: State and Local Government News for America’s Leaders, www.governing.com/gov-data/state-marijuana-laws-map-medical-recreational.html.
Victor, Daniel. “John Boehner’s Marijuana Reversal: ‘My Thinking on Cannabis Has Evolved’.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 11 Apr. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/04/11/us/politics/boehner-cannabis-marijuana.html.
“Wets Pour It On” Dallas Morning News, 24 May. 1932. Editorial. Section 2, page 2.