What others say: Watch for striped pigs on Feb. 24

  • Wednesday, February 18, 2015 8:03pm
  • Opinion

They called it a brick sandwich.

In 1896, New York State enacted the Raines Law to tax and control the retail liquor trade. Among its provisions, it banned saloons from selling liquor on Sundays. Hotels could still serve liquor with meals.

Naturally, saloons started serving meals. Many turned to stage-prop servings — a slab of inedible brick between two slices of bread. No one ate the sandwich — again and again it was returned to the restaurant, and again and again the same sandwich was served to dodge the law.

Then there was the striped pig.

In 1838, Massachusetts passed a law limiting the sale of hard liquor. Under the statute, the intoxicating stuff could be given away, but its sale was strictly limited. An enterprising person began advertising an animal show — “Come see the striped pig!” the ads proclaimed. Admittance to the tent with the pig was — coincidentally, of course — the price of a glass of rum. Entering the tent, you would find a painted clay pig and a complimentary glass of rum.

On Feb. 24, recreational marijuana will become legal in the state of Alaska. The Alaska Legislature, in its wisdom, is debating how to regulate marijuana now that voters have proclaimed their desire to legalize it. The Legislature’s debates will not be finished in less than a week. The duty of overseeing the first day of legal marijuana will therefore fall on the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, which has stated that it will hold an emergency meeting on the date of legalization to determine what, if anything, needs to be done.

Marijuana sales will not yet be legal — only its use, transportation and transfer on a personal scale. As the striped pig told us, there will still be plenty of people who find holes in the laws.

Living in Southeast, we know that even the best poncho or umbrella is as good as its smallest hole. Rain will find a way to drip through, and rain lacks the intelligence to seek those holes as we know people will.

We are naturally suspicious of those who seek those holes. If they are willing to bend these rules to their advantage, might they also be willing to bend others? In Skagway and Dyea at the turn of the 20th century, those who operated illegal saloons were willing to tolerate other crimes, and the effect was to turn Skagway into a raw, lawless city where ‘Soapy’ Smith ruled. One of the intentions of the legalization movement is to reduce crime associated with illegal marijuana sales. Though we know many are anxious for legalization to arrive, we should not allow businesses jump ahead to seek advantage.

Already in Anchorage and Wasilla, there are businesses publicly selling marijuana. None have begun public sales in Juneau, though when tourist season begins, the striped pig will be aboard a cruise ship. We should not be surprised when it arrives.

— Juneau Empire,

Feb. 17

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