Prohibition: Then and Now, History Repeating Itself?


We see Hollywood glamorizing the roaring 20’s, Prohibition Era, with the speakeasies and flapper girls. Then there was Al Capone and the mob’s criminal activities. Today, with the Drug Prohibition, we have stories of bodies being dumped in the streets and heads being found on school playgrounds. Can we not learn from history?

During the Prohibition Era which lasted from 1920 to 1933, people truly thought that passing more laws would make things safer and better.  They felt that alcohol was the cause of many social issues and if it were illegal things would improve.  Unfortunately it had the opposite affect.

Suddenly with liquor being available only through the black markets, criminals organized and gangs were created.  What were once legally run production, importation and distribution businesses were now taken over by gangs.

As a result of the prohibition prices went up further fueling more attraction to gangs who became rich.  Once gangs took hold of the industry fights broke out over territory and connections, spilling crime into the streets including mass murder.


A Bill was created in Congress that celebrated the Repeal day which notes that “throughout American history, alcohol has been consumed by its citizens”;that prohibition resulted in “abuses” and the “irresponsible over consumption of alcohol”; and that the ban on “‘intoxicating liquors’ in the United States, resulted in a dramatic increase in illegal activity, including unsafe black market alcohol production, organized crime, and noncompliance with alcohol laws…”

While prohibition was a complete failure one thing we can learn from them is that they did go through the proper processes.  With prohibition activists worked their way from the local level to the federal level eventually amending the constitution. When America repealed prohibition with a constitutional amendment it explicitly gave the power to regulate alcohol to the states.

In contrast to the drug prohibition, Congress as well as the Supreme court, was not Constitutional when it passed the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 which started the modern day Drug War.

Crime was not the only factor in the failure of prohibition.  The lack of regulation was also a problem.  Unlike the regulated liquor, black market liquor was more potent and more harmful.  Today we have unregulated marijuana that is available to the public causing concerns.  Harmful chemicals, mold and many other issues can have serious effects on the end user as well as the enviroment. Without proper regulation patients can find it hard to get safe, quality marijuana.

During the Prohibition Era doctors were still able to prescribe it to their patients unlike today where dispensaries, doctors and patients  are being terrorized by raids. After almost 40 years since the Controlled Substance Act passed there are hundreds of thousands of people in prison for nonviolent drug crimes. We have federal and local  police forces that all too often acts like an military force with nearly a trillion dollars spent on enforcement. All the while the street prices of drugs like cocaine and marijuana has dramatically dropped since the government began keeping track in the early 1980s.

H.R. 2306, entitled the ‘Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011,’ prohibits the federal government from prosecuting adults who use or possess marijuana by removing the plant, and its primary psychoactive constituent, THC, from the five schedules of the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970.  It is currently being cosponsored by 16 Congresspeople.

There are plenty of lessons to learn from the Prohibition Era as well as the Drug War thus far.  As they always say history will repeat itself if you never learn from it.  Prohibition does not work, as proven, it has the opposite effect. Now is the time to stop the corruption and end Prohibition against marijuana.

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