By Scott Reeder
SPRINGFIELD, Illinois – A few years ago, I was sitting at grandmother’s bedside and she made a political admission that stunned me.
The last Democrat she voted for was Franklin Roosevelt in 1932.
I wasn’t surprised that Eva Reeder, my diehard Republican grandmother, in her 103 years had only supported one Democrat. But I was shocked by why she voted for Roosevelt.
I was expecting her to talk about the New Deal, instead my grandmother, a lifelong teetotaler, talked about Prohibition. She didn’t like the lawlessness that engulfed her rural western Illinois community. It was a time when Al Capone reigned in Chicago.
“Prohibition was bad, Scott. Folks had stills out in the woods all over Schuyler County and were making whiskey. It had to go. President Herbert Hoover supported Prohibition but Roosevelt didn’t.”
In my entire life, I never heard her say one positive thing about alcohol. She would grumble about neighbors who would waste money on beer. And she would shift uncomfortably whenever our family was seated in the bar area of a restaurant.
But the one deviation in her lifelong voting history was to make liquor legal.
She could see Prohibition was breeding violence and causing government resources to be wasted.
These days, I’m feeling a bit like my grandmother.
I’m a 53-year-old who has never tasted alcohol or used a recreational drug. But I’m asking myself: Is it time to end our nation’s prohibition against marijuana?
I’m not Pollyannaish about pot.
Sandy Thompson, an editor and nice person I worked with 20 years ago, was killed at a Las Vegas stoplight when a driver, too stoned to get behind a wheel, crashed into her car.
On the other hand, when my mother was going through cancer treatments, she was prescribed Marinol, a synthetic form of THC. For her, it was a miracle drug. It alleviated her nausea unlike the many medicines she had previously taken. It also restored her appetite.
I was surprised when my mother, a registered nurse, took the medicine. She, too, never drank alcohol. And she viewed the consumption of any drug – legal or otherwise – with trepidation.
I called home shortly after my mother began taking Marinol. In the midst of our conversation, I found myself straining to hear her.
The conversation went something like this:
“Mom, I can hardly hear you.”
“I can barely hear you too.”
“Did you push a button on your desk phone?”
Then the conversation was interrupted by a long pause. Afterwards, her voice returned to normal.
“What was it, Mom?”
“Never mind, I figured it out.”
“Mom, tell me.”
“I had the handset upside down.”
Our nation’s marijuana policy debate is a lot like that conversation. Folks are talking, but they are barely hearing one another.
It’s time for an intelligent dialogue on marijuana policy.
Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse journalist. He works as a freelance reporter in the Springfield, Illinois, area and produces the podcast Suspect Convictions. He can be reached at [email protected].