Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Women's Christian Temperance Union and Modern Prohibitionism

The Women's Christian Temperance Union is usually regarded as an archaic curiosity. The image of Carrie Nation and her gang of anti drinking militants smashing up a saloon is regarded as an icon of intolerant militancy.

Some would compare laws against marijuana to laws against alcohol, using such a comparison as an argument for legalisation. I have mixed emotions about that. I have seen the powerfully deleterious effects of marijuana on functioning in society and quality of intellectual functioning. Its active ingredients are fat soluble and build up in the tissues. It is easy to carry around and ingest in various ways, making the potential to become a round the clock abuser much greater.

On the other hand I distrust the tendency to dismiss marijuana as being clinically useless. The terminally ill have reported on its usefulness in alleviating the pain of the terminally ill.

Although I have fought the battle of many parents to keep my home drug free, I offered to buy my mother marijuana when she was terminally ill to relieve her suffering. Because of her experiences working at a fast food restaurant in Los Angeles back in the 1940's she could not shake the negative associations the drug had for her of disreputable elements. For this reason she turned down my offer, which I made despite my opposition to social marijuana use.

We as a society would put so much emphasis on euthanasia and "pulling the plug" rather than alleviating the pain of the terminally ill by any means necessary. We are far too quick to dismiss the possibility of enjoying life in its final stages. It is for this reason that I feel that medical marijuana should be an option for the terminally ill. Despite this, I feel that marijuana should remain illegal for those who are in good health.

I am concerned about creeping prohibition in other areas. I don't mind nutrition labels on food and hazard labels on cigarettes and alcohol. I do mind the efforts to tax tobacco to death and ban transfats that we have in New York City. I feel that basic physical safety of the citizenry should be the sole concern of law enforcement. There is little doubt in my mind that tobacco used as it is by many shortens life. But I feel that education is the solution to tobacco addiction. An additional possibility is to do scientific research into the medical and industrial uses for tobacco. It does not seem implausible that beverages could be designed with some tobacco derivatives with mild stimulant qualities. Additionally, there should be research done into crop substitution in which medical herbs are cultivated on land formerly used for tobacco.

The transfat ban that we have in New York is an absurd example of the government treating the people like children. It raises the spectre of every medical fad making its way into the law books. In many neighbourhoods of New York, violent crime is making a robust comeback. I am far more concerned about gunfire in the streets which I have witnessed than I am about transfats. Escapist and trendy legislation diverts valuable resources from the basic functions of government that revolve around maintaining public order.

The Women's Christian Temperance Union was a progressive organisation that actually still exists today. It supported women's suffrage and labor rights. There was some overlap between abolitionism and the prohibitionist movement.

Modern day prohibitionism has the same place on the political spectrum. It is usually considered "progressive". Its underlying assumtions are elitist, that "the masses are asses" who must be treated like children. Such assumptions are insulting to the citizenry. We live in the age of the internet, where information flows freely. Health decisions should be governed by education and persuasion, not by legislation. We should not repeat the mistakes that this country made by adopting prohibition. Basic safety should be the focus of government. Let's keep it that way.


With this posting, I am including a WCTU song performed by Alonzo Garbanzo. I am amazed that he is not a megastar. He is a brilliant performer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

OK, WELL, I never heard that one but WELL DONE!

Bunny S. Galladora
Media Relations
National Woman's Christian Temperance Union and Maryland
State President