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Google.com defines “legislate” as “to cover, affect, or create by making and enacting laws”.

Since before Moses and the Ten Commandments, humans have been attempting to change behaviors through writing laws. Whether the laws are meant to prevent an activity (such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs) or to encourage positive behaviors (mandatory watering restrictions during drought conditions to assist in water conservation), the most effective laws have measurable limits. A California driver either stays below 0.08 Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) or he doesn’t, or a homeowner waters Sundays and Thursdays between 9:00 p.m. and midnight, or she doesn’t.

More difficult by far is legislation to change deeply held beliefs, such as in the whole arena of civil rights law. Many people my age have forgotten that interracial marriages used to be against the law; when I married my Japanese-American husband in the early 70s, it was no longer illegal, but was still unusual. When he was growing up in nearby Reedley, California, it was illegal for Negroes (and I’m using that term because that was how the law read) to live within the city limits. The authorities seldom were called on to enforce the law, because the neighbors were quick to let an offending newcomer know they were not welcome, and they would leave. Most of us would be horrified to discover similar laws on the books in our communities, but they were in effect for generations in this country.

The newest legal frontier seems to be marijuana consumption. While California has now legalized marijuana for medicinal use statewide, individual cities and counties have jurisdiction over its growth and production. While state law says one may use marijuana with a prescription and grow plants for one’s own use, few counties allow outside cultivation (claiming that outdoor grows encourage crime as opportunists come to steal the crops, etc.) and most make indoor cultivation as difficult as possible. I question how local governments can be allowed to put such restrictions on activities that have been deemed legal by the state. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out over time.