COLUMN: What we can learn from the end of alcohol prohibition

With the end of marijuana prohibition expected to happen within the next few years, the debate is now focused on what will take its place.

With the end of marijuana prohibition expected to happen within the next few years, the debate is now focused on what will take its place.

The Liberals have promised to deliver legislation that will legalize and regulate pot, but what will that legislation look like? The end of alcohol prohibition might offer some insight. But first a little pre-history lesson.

As far as we can tell, people have been making and drinking alcohol for almost 9,000 years. For the first 7,000 years, this took the form of simple fermented concoctions like beer and wine, but around 100 A.D. we figured out distillation, which allowed us to make stronger spirits.

Alcohol production really started to take off during the industrial revolution in the 1700s, and that’s when things started to get crazy. Mass urbanization coupled with cheap, potent booze was a recipe for social chaos.

By the mid-1800s, people were starting to think that prohibition was a good idea.

In Canada, the Temperance Act was passed in 1864, which allowed any county to forbid the sale of alcohol by majority vote.

Provincial governments passed various laws that prohibited alcohol sales to the general public in the 1890s and early 20th century, and by 1918 the federal government stepped up and made prohibition nation-wide as part of the War Measures Act, but this was repealed just two years later, in 1920.

The provinces all maintained prohibition for some time after, but each one eventually fell, with the last holdout being PEI in 1948.

During this entire period, alcohol was still widely available as medicine. Bad back? Nasty cough? Nerves? Whisky was the cure-all. Interestingly, doctors noticed a massive increase in the need for prescriptions around Christmas and other holidays.

As prohibition fell across the country, silly, overbearing legislation took its place, and much of it is still in place today. Responsible adults still can’t legally enjoy a beer at the beach in most of Canada.

Ontario residents have to go to separate stores to buy beer and spirits. And it’s only been in the past few decades that anyone but a handful of large companies has been permitted a license to make alcohol.

Our parents’ generation had maybe a dozen or so choices when it came to beer and wine produced in this country.

But thanks to relaxed regulations and the evolution of independent micro-breweries, wineries, and micro-distilleries, Canadians now have considerable choice.

The culture that has grown up around this industry is not one of excess, but of connoisseurship.

So what has this to do with pot? If history is any indicator, the government will pass legislation with similar stupid and mostly unnecessary restrictions governing the sale of marijuana and other pot consumables.

But if we’re smart, and if we look at how the alcohol industry has evolved over the past century, we might be able to avoid the same pitfalls.

The advantages are obvious: we can jump right into building a strong new industry that will not only serve consumers responsibly, but also create thousands of new jobs.

With the number of dispensaries in Nelson now at eight (probably a record for shops per population), we have an opportunity to lead the way for how Canada ends pot prohibition.

John Paolozzi is a freelance writer and stay-at-home dad living in Nelson.

 

Just Posted

What’s Up: Things to see and do on Family Day

There’s plenty of fun to be had across the West Kootenay this coming long weekend!

Seven Nelson rec projects granted Columbia Basin Trust funding

Nelson’s baseball and tennis clubs were the big winners

Sanchez leads Leafs to 6th straight win

Nelson held off Spokane 3-2 on Friday

UPDATE: Two-car accident closes Highway 3A at Thrums

Road expected to open for single-lane alternating traffic at 2 p.m.

CHECK THIS OUT: Love and e-Readers

Anne DeGrace on downloading new literary relationships

VIDEO: Historic night in Red Deer as 2019 Canada Winter Games kicks off

Star-studded Opening Ceremony features athletes from across Canada

B.C. students win Great Waters Challenge video contest

Video, mural and song about saving the salmon claims the top prize

B.C. couple attacked with acid, slashed with knife in Vietnam

Warning, graphic images: Man has burns on 80 per cent of his body, slashed with knife

Flying squirrels found to glow pink in the dark, including two from B.C.

Squirrels from Hope and Abbotsford were included in the biologists’ database

Ontario police field complaints over Amber Alert for missing girl, 11, found dead

Some said the Amber Alert issued late Thursday for Riya Rajkumar disrupted their sleep

Names keep adding to vaccine petition started by B.C. mom

Maple Ridge mom started campaign to make vaccination a condition of attending school

Northern B.C. First Nation clan says ancient tools found at pipeline work site

Archeologists from the Smithsonian Institute estimate one of the stones found dates back up to 3500 years

Wilson-Raybould resignation stokes anger, frustration within veterans community

Liberals have had three veterans-affairs ministers — Kent Hehr, Seamus O’Regan and Wilson-Raybould

Most Read