Monday, October 20, 2008

RECOVERED HISTORY: PARALLEL BETWEEN DRUG & ALCOHOL PROHIBITION

Consumer Reports Magazine, 1972 - In contrast to the many logical arguments in favor of alcohol prohibition, the one decisive argument against such a measure is purely pragmatic: prohibition doesn't work. It should work, but it doesn't. . .

Alcohol prohibition was not repealed because people decided that alcohol was a harmless drug. On the contrary, the United States learned during prohibition, even more than in prior decades, the true horrors of the drug. What brought about repeal was the slowly dawning awareness that alcohol prohibition wasn't working.

Alcohol remained available during prohibition. People still got drunk, still became alcoholics, still suffered delirium tremens. Drunken drivers remained a frequent menace on the highways. Drunks continued to commit suicide, to kill others, and to be killed by others. They continued to beat their own children, sometimes fatally. The courts, jails, hospitals, and mental hospitals were still filled with drunks, In some respects and in some parts of the country, perhaps, the situation was a little better during prohibition-but in other respects it was unquestionably worse.

Instead of consuming alcoholic beverages manufactured under the safeguards of state and federal standards, for example, people now drank "rotgut," some of it adulterated, some of it contaminated. The use of methyl alcohol, a poison, because ethyl alcohol was unavailable or too costly, led to blindness and death; "ginger jake," an adulterant found in bootleg beverages, produced paralysis and death. The disreputable saloon was replaced by the even less savory speakeasy. There was a shift from relatively mild light wines and beers to hard liquors-less bulky and therefore less hazardous to manufacture, transport, and sell on the black market. Young people-and especially respectable young women, who rarely got drunk in public before 1920- now staggered out of speakeasies and reeled down the streets. There were legal closing hours for saloons; the speakeasies stayed open night and day. Organized crime syndicates took control of alcohol distribution, establishing power bases that (it is alleged) still survive.

Marijuana, a drug previously little used in the United States, was first popularized during the period of alcohol prohibition and ether was also imbibed. The use of other drugs increased, too; coffee consumption, for example, soared from 9 pounds per capita in 1919 to 12.9 pounds in 1920.

During the early years of alcohol prohibition, it was argued that all that was wrong was lack of effective law enforcement. So enforcement budgets were increased, more prohibition agents were hired, arrests were facilitated by giving agents more power, penalties were escalated. prohibition still didn't work. . .

In summary, far more would be gained by making alcohol unavailable than by making any other drug unavailable. Yet the United States, after a thirteen-year trial, resolutely turned its face against alcohol prohibition. Society recognized that prohibition does not in fact prohibit, and that it brings in its wake additional adverse effects.

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