It was a curious coincidence last month, that as PBS was broadcasting the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick documentary, Prohibition, describing the Hoover Justice Department’s last-gasp crackdown on alcoholic beverages in the late 1920s, prosecutors in the Obama Justice Department were announcing a crackdown on medical marijuana in California, threatening to confiscate the property of people “involved in drug trafficking activity,” which is fedspeak for providing pot for sick people.

After nearly a decade under the Volstead Act, the utter futility of enforcing public abstinence from alcohol was evident to all but prohibition’s stakeholders – chiefly police, prosecutors and bootleggers. Despite the draconian penalties imposed by the 1926 Jones Act, which turned Volstead violations into felonies, booze remained generally available. Similarly, despite the draconian penalties of the Nixon-era Controlled Substances Act, and nearly a million arrests annually, marijuana has proven itself ineradicable, and, indeed, has become a part of our culture.

The warnings from U.S. Attorneys in California come on the heels of similar threats from their counterparts in Rhode Island, Vermont, Colorado and other states whose medical marijuana laws authorize secure, large-scale cultivation facilities, such as that contemplated in the anticipated ballot question in Massachusetts. If they make good on those threats, one can only imagine the perp walks outside the federal courthouse: plumbers, equipment suppliers, bookkeepers, state functionaries and investors in suits – all the “conspirators” it takes to bring an agricultural product safely to a large, regulated market of doctor-authorized patients.

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MetroWest Daily News, December 3, 2011