Marijuana: Rachel Maddow links Amendment 64 confusion to end of alcohol prohibition

While the passage of Amendment 64 has received national and even international attention (via Mexico president Felipe Calderon's comments about his nation's pot policy in A64's wake), much of the mainstream media's coverage has been less than thoughtful. But as usual, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow is an exception. Last night, she drew a parallel between the measure's approval and the end of alcohol prohibition. See the video and get more details below.

As is her style, Maddow snuck up on the subject rather than hitting it head on. She began the segment (backed by an Amendment 64 celebration photo emblazoned with the phrase "A New Leaf") with an examination of Utah's weird alcohol rules, exemplified by the state's list of liquors approved for sale there. Example: Only two types of mezcal have been blessed by officials, with one of them boasting the brand name Ilegal.

From there, Maddow ran down the variety of ways assorted states treat alcohol -- laws that sprang up following the abolition of alcohol prohibition in 1933 -- en route to noting that a similar dichotomy would have been established for cannabis had Oregon voters joined those in Colorado and Washington in approving marijuana measures last week. The Oregon proposal would have put the state in charge of purchasing and selling marijuana, as opposed to private businesses.

Instead, Colorado and Washington wound up approving similarly structured approaches -- but that doesn't mean enacting the separate measures will be a cinch. Maddow pointed out that in one part of Washington, prosecutors have dropped pending marijuana prosecutions under the theory that the conduct at the heart of them will be legal in a short period of time. In contrast, she noted that "in the eastern part of Washington state and Spokane County, prosecutors there say they plan to keep arresting people just as they do now for pot-related offenses. Their argument in Spokane is that the only legal way to get pot in Washington even after this new state law goes into effect will be to buy that pot from a state-regulated pot store -- and those state regulated pot stores don't exist yet.

"They might soon be created if the federal government allows that to happen," she goes on. However, "nobody knows that the government will allow them to happen. This is policy soup, and I don't mean this as a munchies joke. This doesn't make any sense yet."

True enough -- and rather than trying to untangle the confusion, Maddow's guest, previous Westword profile subject Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, focused on the reasons why he is in favor of broader marijuana legalization. His remarks were the sort that haven't gotten much of an airing on the national airwaves either during the lead-up to this year's election or afterward -- but thanks to folks like Maddow, that may be changing.

See the segment below.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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