Smoking Marlboros is now forbidden in Irish bars in New York City. But buying, selling, and smoking marijuana is legal in Colorado. It doesn't take a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing.
But where are we going?
One certain result of the legalization of marijuana is that there are going to be more potheads, more dropouts, and more deaths on highways from those high or stoned — and more rehab centers.
Scores of thousands of Coloradans may relish the freedom they have voted for themselves. But the costs will be borne by society and the families of future victims of potheads behind the wheel. So it has been with alcohol. All of us can recall classmates injured and dead in auto accidents, jobs lost by friends, lives destroyed, and families smashed because of booze.
Just as beer opens the door for the young to bourbon, scotch, gin and vodka, marijuana is the gateway drug, the escalator drug, to cocaine and heroin.
And if marijuana sales bring in the revenue Colorado envisions, other states will follow suit, and some state will become the first to decriminalize cocaine.
Undeniably, the cultural revolution is gaining converts and picking up speed. The haste with which some Republicans are deep-sixing the social issues to focus on tax cuts testifies to this.
It was half a century ago that pot first began to replace alcohol as the drug of choice for baby boomers arriving on campuses in 1964. Yet not until the boomers began moving onto Social Security rolls did the first state legalize marijuana for personal enjoyment. Yet, as with same-sex marriage, now legal in 16 or 17 states, the legalization of marijuana appears to be an idea whose time has come.
What does this tell us about our country? America is not only diversifying racially, ethnically and religiously as a result of continuous mass immigration, legal and illegal. We are diversifying, and disuniting morally, culturally, and politically. Not so very long ago, the U.S. government enforced Prohibition, pronounced smoking a menace to the national health, punished gambling as organized crime, and declared a war on drugs.
Now the government has shouldered aside organized crime to take over, tax, and regulate the rackets. At federal, state and local levels, the government rakes off vast revenues from taxes on booze, bars, cigarettes, casinos and, coming soon, online poker. Government lotteries have crowded out the old numbers racket.
As the poet Alexander Pope wrote three centuries ago:
Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet, seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.
In the 1965 decision Griswold v. Connecticut, the Warren Court discovered a constitutional right to privacy and overturned a state law prohibiting the sale of contraceptives. Contraceptives are now handed out to high schoolers and a right to contraception has been written into Obamacare.
Abortion and homosexuality used to be scandalous. Now they are constitutional rights and popular social causes, and same-sex marriage is the civil rights cause of the 21st century.
As Justice Antonin Scalia noted, if tradition, religious beliefs, or a community animus against conduct is insufficient to restrict private behavior, upon what legal ground do we stand upon to outlaw polygamy, adult incest, or prostitution?
Yet traditional America is not rolling over and playing dead.
"Abortion rights" face new restrictions in state after state, as a new generation appears more pro-life than its parents.
And as the A&E network discovered when it sought to suspend "Duck Dynasty" patriarch Phil Robertson for his biblical reflections, the silent majority remains faithful to the traditional morality.
And while a libertarianism of the left appears ascendant, there is also a rising and militant libertarianism of the right. We have seen it manifest in the explosion of "stand your ground" and concealed-carry laws, opposition to federal background checks for gun owners, and ferocious resistance to the outlawing of assault rifles and 30-round magazines.
In that Colorado where pot is now legal, state senators have been recalled for insufficient devotion to Second Amendment rights. And there are bubbling secessionist movements in states like Colorado, of folks who would like to separate themselves from places like Denver.
The triumph of the sexual revolution has not been without its casualties, e.g., an endless supply of new HIV/AIDS and STD cases and a national illegitimacy rate of over 40 percent of all births.
And the correlation between that illegitimacy rate and the dropout rate, drug use rate, delinquency rate, crime rate, and incarceration rate is absolute.
Undeniably, the claims of the individual to maximum autonomy and freedom appear triumphant over the claims of community. The clamor of me is prevailing over the claims of us.
But in yielding, America has not only tossed overboard the moral compass that guided us for two centuries. We no longer even agree on what is "True North" anymore.
(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)