Should we repeal prohibition?

26
554

We are back in 1933, about to repeal the amendment to the US constitution, passed in 1919.  The 21st amendment would repeal the Volstead Act that made alcohol illegal. 

Opponents of the change point out that repeal will make alcoholism more widespread, which supporters concede.  They claim it will result in more alcohol-related diseases, also conceded.  They predict more alcohol-related deaths, also conceded.  They say it will ruin more lives, which the pro-alcohol lobby admit is probably true.  They say poor people will spend money on alcohol instead of food for their families, which they might well.

Bewildered, those who oppose repeal ask why anyone should support it, given all this.  The answer is that the present situation has given us Al Capone.  It has given us criminal gangs, corrupt police chiefs and judges and widespread disrespect for the law.  The war on booze has turned an everyday recreation into a criminal activity.  Furthermore, it has clearly failed.  It has not stopped drinking.  Instead it has given us booze of uncertain and dangerous quality, at prices that reflect criminality rather than production costs.  It is time to do something else.

Fast forward to the present day and many similar arguments could be made about narcotics.  Yes, all of those bad things might happen, but we would reduce deaths from adulterated or poisoned doses. Government could regulate for quality. It could gain revenue by taxing them.  Teenagers would no longer need to murder each other on the streets in drug turf wars because without illegality there would be not enough money in it.  Much police time and prison space would be saved.

It might indeed be time to do something else.

26
Leave a Reply

Please Login to comment
8 Comment threads
18 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
7 Comment authors
NiVEdSpikeSouthernerQuentin Vole Recent comment authors

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Rhoda Klapp
Member
Rhoda Klapp

What legal entity is going to be able and allowed to sell anything so harmful to the public? The busybodies are taking the fat and sugar out of food to save us from ourselves. We can’t buy perfectly ordinary painkillers without restriction. I need a scrip for all the medicines I take even though they are not particularly harmful. It is no use listing how many contradictions your plan removes without going the whole way and thinking of the unintended consequences. Oh, and another thing you want to tax. I suggest you stop making fun of Ritchie if you are… Read more »

Rhoda Klapp
Member
Rhoda Klapp

What legal entity is going to be able and allowed to sell anything so harmful to the public? The busybodies are taking the fat and sugar out of food to save us from ourselves. We can’t buy perfectly ordinary painkillers without restriction. I need a scrip for all the medicines I take even though they are not particularly harmful. It is no use listing how many contradictions your plan removes without going the whole way and thinking of the unintended consequences. Oh, and another thing you want to tax. I suggest you stop making fun of Ritchie if you are… Read more »

Spike
Member

Corporate pushers will argue for and get a “safe harbor” law that keeps them from being sued for producing a legal but “harmful” product, comparable to the law that enables firearms to be manufactured and sold.

Spike
Member

I agree with the author that the lawlessness and social breakdown of our current Prohibition are exactly imitating the Al Capone days. An additional obstacle these days is the “public health” baloney, under which drug use is disparaged as an “addiction” and mischaracterized as an “epidemic” despite no concept of contagion. These pliable concepts are stretched to include the alleged over-prescription of painkillers. The 21st Amendment, which repealed Prohibition, is the only one that did not go to the state legislatures for ratification, but instead used the other ratification method set out in the Constitution: conventions of voters set up… Read more »

Rhoda Klapp
Member
Rhoda Klapp

Well, IF 40,000 Americans die each year from ‘opioids’ of whatever source, some might consider that those who think it a public health problem might have an arguable position.

I note in passing that US teenagers are still under prohibition imposed by the federal government by stealth.

Spike
Member

“Public health” is that body of lore that holds that enlightened regulation can improve the health of the Human Herd. It is justified when you have a guy walking around downtown distributing Ebola just by exhaling. In contrast, “opioids” are no more a public health problem than widespread gun ownership or AIDS (almost always spread by outrageous personal decisions such as sharing needles or promiscuous homosexuality). They are individual decisions, sometimes ill-advised, where regulators can assemble large body counts and argue for government action. That makes it “arguable” but not correct. Yes, everything we are doing these days is “stealth”… Read more »

BniC
Member
BniC

Canada legalises marijuana in a couple of months, will be interesting to see how that goes

Spike
Member

As in several U.S. states. The key will be whether it is accompanied by taxes and requirements for personal disclosures under which illegality will remain attractive. Cigarettes are “legal” in New York City but there is widespread smuggling from North Carolina.

BniC
Member
BniC

And as different Provinces will be implementing their own regulations it will be interesting to see what happens

Ed
Member
Ed

You can legalise marijuana and tax and regulate it. I suspect that the drug dealers will do what any entrepreneur would do – change their business model to target under 18s, increase the drug’s strength and cut costs, although overall they will make less money and students and middle aged Floyd fans can smoke a joint in peace. Heroin, cocaine, ice? Forget it. The costs of doing business will be huge. Public liability insurance will be hideously expensive and your security will be Fort Knox worthy. Since most corporations and government bodies will ban staff from taking the stuff, and… Read more »

Quentin Vole
Member
Quentin Vole

Heroin’s street value is created almost entirely by its illegality. Even so, most UK pharmacies stock diamorphine and they don’t generally require armed guards. I agree that legalisation would require co-ordination by (at least) western governments.

Ed
Member
Ed

I take your point that the value of heroin is almost entirely due to its illegal status. The same can be said of alcohol – if there was no duty on it and its sale was not heavily regulated then it would also be as cheap as, say, lemonade. I have no doubt that if the government announced that heroin, cocaine, alcohol and tobacco were in future to be legal and regulated to the same degree as lemonade then most of the points I raise would not apply. You could send your 14 year old down to the corner shop… Read more »

Southerner
Member

Thank you Ed, almost the first objective, practical thoughts I have ever read on the topic. Prohibition and the War on Drugs have almost nothing in common. For the great majority of users, alcohol is not addictive. For almost every single user, addictive drugs are addictive, because that’s what the word addictive means. The armchair quarterbacks who have never been in a room with an addict screaming for a fix have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. The bien pensants at Tim calls them who say that drug addiction is a victimless crime have never had an addict… Read more »

Spike
Member

The word addictive means: A habit that, once formed, is very hard to break, either because the user finds it pleasurable, or finds abstinence or withdrawal unpleasurable, notably because of an attribute of the substance addicted to. It does not mean screaming and misbehaving, nor even driving impaired. Those are decisions; one can instead endure the shakes in solitude until they end. I regret your personal experience, but that doesn’t make you right or entitle you to become snide to other posters. Alcohol and drug Prohibition are the same impulse, with the same societal effects, and it proves nothing that,… Read more »

Southerner
Member

Thank you, you have just proved my point.

Ed
Member
Ed

I take your point that the value of heroin is almost entirely due to its illegal status. The same can be said of alcohol – if there was no duty on it and its sale was not heavily regulated then it would also be as cheap as, say, lemonade. I have no doubt that if the government announced that heroin, cocaine, alcohol and tobacco were in future to be legal and regulated to the same degree as lemonade then most of the points I raise would not apply. You could send your 14 year old down to the corner shop… Read more »

Ed
Member
Ed

Sorry – posted this twice! My error.

Spike
Member

Not only is the value of the substance caused by its illegality, most of the societal problems are caused by its illegality too, though the substance itself causes other problems. To say that alcohol and illegal drugs have historical differences is unenlightening; “everything is different, except for their similarities, and identical except for their differences.” And the ability to manufacture at home is not a difference at all. Advocates of legalization are not advocating total anarchy nor to legalize misconduct under the influence. But the state in which mere possession is a crime has not solved the problem and has… Read more »

Ed
Member
Ed

Seriously, you don’t see a difference between a drug we have lived with for millennia and a teenager can make and a relatively new drug that has never been widely accepted? The general public sees that difference. I know you are not advocating anarchy, but what are you advocating? Can any adult buy as much heroin as they want? Won’t that lead to a massive wave of overdoses and life changing injuries? Of course we don’t drink ourselves to death on o ur 18th birthday, but as I say we are used to alcohol, we have seen our family drink… Read more »

NiV
Member
NiV

“The comparison between prohibition and the war on drugs is disingenuous.” Prohibition *was* part of the war on drugs. “Alcohol has been part of mainstream society for thousands of years (see the Bible) and can be made at home from basic ingredients – unlike heroin.” That doesn’t make it any different. It’s a new way of achieving an old effect. And Shamans were experimenting with psychotropic pharmaceuticals back into pre-history. Given starving people’s habit of trying stuff to see if it’s edible, this was pretty much inevitable. “My main issue is that I think legalisation of drugs as a way… Read more »

Spike
Member

There are many differences between the substances but not every drug now illegal is more hazardous than alcohol is. I am not writing about the differences in the substances but the similarity (and defects) of Prohibition as a response to any of them, no matter what “many believe,” or what “the general public sees.” The societal harm of Prohibition is worse than the inherent harm of the substances, given that misconduct under the influence of the substances would continue to be illegal. Of course the law remains the law until amended. But my side of the argument does not have… Read more »

Ed
Member
Ed

I think the range of responses shows that my original point stands – you need to define what you mean by legalise. Portugal, of course, has not legalised drugs, only decriminalised them. In fact, no country of any size has legalised drugs such as cocaine or heroin in modern times, if by legalise you mean allow the large scale production and distribution of heroin and cocaine for purely recreational purposes. As a result I can only speculate as to the effect of legalisation. But I don’t think I am going out on a limb here when I say that if… Read more »

NiV
Member
NiV

“Simply put, I and others love people who make bad decisions. I don’t think putting temptation in their way is a good idea.” Yes, that’s the essence of authoritarian paternalism: the “Nanny State”. Society has the right and duty to restrict other’s actions “for their own good” and “for the good of society”. It’s the same argument people make with guns. Sure, most people would be sensible about it, but enough people are going to make bad decisions, and enough people are going to get hurt, that we need to take people’s freedom away for their own good. You’re quite… Read more »

Ed
Member
Ed

As it happens I agee with your point, I think Europe and North America has too many rules and a population too relient on the protection of the state. However we are where we are and my point is that implimenting legalisation of drugs will require convincing millions of people to agree to give it a go.

Ed
Member
Ed

Sorry posted early. The point is that in order to get their agreement there will be so many restrictions in place as to make the experiment unworkable or the external effects will rapidly be seen as too high a price to pay. Maybe we should stick to advocating decriminalization first .

NiV
Member
NiV

Yes. There are two separate questions: ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ and ‘What’s the most practical way to bring it about?’ I’m only arguing the former point.

If someone wants to argue only for decriminalisation as a first step to answering the second question, I’d take that as a positive step.

Frankly, I don’t think that even that is going to be remotely politically acceptable in the US or UK any time in the near term.