Travel teaches us a respect for history. And when it comes to drug policy, I hope we can learn from our own prohibitionist past. Back in the 1920s, America's biggest drug problem was alcohol. To combat it, we made booze illegal and instituted Prohibition. By any sober assessment, all that Prohibition produced was grief. By criminalizing a soft drug that people refused to stop enjoying, Prohibition created the mob (Al Capone and company), filled our prisons, and cost our society a lot of money. It was big government at its worst.
In the 1930s, when it was becoming clear that America's Prohibition on alcohol wasn't working, New York Mayor LaGuardia said that if a society has a law on the books that it doesn't intend to enforce, it erodes respect for all laws in general. More and more courageous citizens stood up and said the laws against alcohol were causing more problems than the alcohol itself. When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, nobody was saying “booze is good.” Society just realized that the laws were counterproductive and impossible to enforce.
In our own age, many lawyers, police officers, judges, and other concerned citizens are coming to the same conclusion about the current US government-sponsored prohibition against marijuana.
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You are reading "The Prohibition of Our Age", an entry posted on 08 February 2010 by Rick Steves.