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Home / Carpe Diem / It’s the 83rd anniversary today of the end of alcohol prohibition (Drug War I); hopefully we’ll someday end our second failed attempt at prohibition (Drug War II) – Publications – AEI

It’s the 83rd anniversary today of the end of alcohol prohibition (Drug War I); hopefully we’ll someday end our second failed attempt at prohibition (Drug War II) – Publications – AEI

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AEI It’s the 83rd anniversary today of the end of alcohol prohibition (Drug War I); hopefully we’ll someday end our second failed attempt at prohibition (Drug War II) Today (December 5) is Repeal Day (#RepealDay) and marks the 84th anniversary of the day in 1933 that the 21st Amendment to the US Constitution was passed to repeal the 18th Amendment, and officially ended America’s first failed, deadly and costly “War on Drugs” (alcohol prohibition) that started in 1920. The 21st amendment is unique among the 27 Amendments to the US Constitution because it is the only time a previous Amendment has been repealed, and it’s the only Amendment that was ratified by the state ratifying convention method. Just like the shameful, expensive and repressive War on Drugs I (Alcohol) failed in the 1920s

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It’s the 83rd anniversary today of the end of alcohol prohibition (Drug War I); hopefully we’ll someday end our second failed attempt at prohibition (Drug War II)

It’s the 83rd anniversary today of the end of alcohol prohibition (Drug War I); hopefully we’ll someday end our second failed attempt at prohibition (Drug War II) - Publications – AEI
Today (December 5) is Repeal Day (#RepealDay) and marks the 84th anniversary of the day in 1933 that the 21st Amendment to the US Constitution was passed to repeal the 18th Amendment, and officially ended America’s first failed, deadly and costly “War on Drugs” (alcohol prohibition) that started in 1920. The 21st amendment is unique among the 27 Amendments to the US Constitution because it is the only time a previous Amendment has been repealed, and it’s the only Amendment that was ratified by the state ratifying convention method.

Just like the shameful, expensive and repressive War on Drugs I (Alcohol) failed in the 1920s and 1930s, so today is the country’s second costly, immoral and senseless War or Drugs Otherwise Peaceful Americans Who Voluntarily Choose to Ingest Plants, Weeds, and Intoxicants Arbitrarily Proscribed by the US Government failing miserably. Hopefully at some point in a more sane, compassionate and enlightened future the celebration of Repeal Day on December 5 will include a recognition of the repeal of today’s insane drug laws (Drug War II) and second failed attempt at prohibition following Drug War I against alcohol.

Several years ago, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of law enforcement officials opposed to today’s second failed attempt at prohibition, created a Buzzfeed list to show why Drug War II has been one of the most disastrous policies in American history. From mass incarceration and the tremendous loss of life to billions of dollars seized from citizens every year, drug prohibition today is a colossal failure, just like alcohol prohibition was equally a massive failure nearly 100 years ago. LEAP’s list of reasons to end today’s version of prohibition is meant to remind the public of the civil and human rights violations being committed against so many Americans every day, and Repeal Day on December 5 is a good time to review the reasons why today’s version of prohibition should end. Here’s a link to “10 Shocking Reasons to End the Drug War (And Consider Legalization and Regulation)” and here’s a summary of the ten reasons to end the War on Drugs (with some updates and additional statistics) — America’s second failed attempt at using police state powers to prohibit otherwise peaceful Americans from ingesting intoxicants arbitrarily banned by the government. 

1. Mass Incarceration – Drug arrests account for nearly 50% of federal prisoners, and more than 16% of people in state prison. Today, about 500,000 Americans are behind bars for drug law violations, 10 times the number in 1980. In 1980, for example, 580,900 people were arrested on drug-related charges in the United States. By 2014, that number had increased to 1,561,231. More than 700,000 of these arrests in 2014 were related to marijuana. Largely because of drug prohibition, the US is the World’s No. 1 Jailer, and has an incarceration rate (700 per 100,000 population) higher than Cuba (510 per 100,000), China (118 per 100,000), Russia (450 per 100,000), Rwanda (434 per 100,000) and Iran (287,000). The US accounts for 4.4% of the world’s population, but houses 22% of the world’s prisoners.

2. Racial Bias in Drug Arrests and Jail Sentences – Blacks and whites use drugs at about the same rate, but blacks are three times more likely than whites to be arrested on drug charges and ten times more likely to be sent to state prison on drug charges than whites.

3. Asset Forfeiture Abuses – In 2012 alone, the US Justice Department confiscated $4.2 billion in forfeitures. In 2014, for the first time ever, law enforcement officers took more property from American citizens than burglars did as asset forfeitures surpassed burglaries.

4. America’s Deadly Heroin Epidemic — From 2006 to 2010, heroin overdose deaths in the U.S. increased by 45%, and the numbers continue to climb. As the nation has cracked down on prescription opioid abuse, people suffering from addiction have turned to heroin, a cheaper, easily accessible option.

5. The Breakdown between Law Police and the Community, because of the increasing militarization of US law enforcement and aggressive enforcement of drug laws (see Item 9 below).

6. Mexican Drug Cartel Violence – At least 60,000 Mexicans have died since 2006 in drug cartel-related murders, deaths and violence, and some estimates of the drug-related body count in Mexico are as high as 125,000.

7. The War on Women – No country incarcerates more women than the US, and 85% of women jailed in America are serving time for non-violent crimes like drug offenses.

8. Entrapment of Minors – Like the case of Jesse Snodgrass (an autistic teen also diagnosed with bipolar disorder and Tourette’s Syndrome who struggles socially). A police officer posed as a high school student, pretended to be Jesse’s friend, and harassed him until he sold him marijuana.

9. SWAT Raids Kill People and Family Pets – Here’s the annual body count from US domestic drug law enforcement operations in recent years: 2016 (49 deaths), 2015 (56 deaths), 2014 (39 deaths), and 2013 (41 deaths). From 2010 – 2016 there were at least 81 civilians and 13 law enforcement officers who died in what are called “dynamic entry”, “no knock” (SWAT) raids. The Department of Justice estimates that nearly 25 dogs are killed by law enforcement every day in the United States, which makes a total of 10,000 per year.

10. The Costly Drug War Spends Billions of Taxpayer Dollars on Enforcement, Arrests, Court Costs, Jail Time, etc.  Since the War on Drugs began more than 40 years ago, the U.S. government has spent more than $1 trillion on interdiction policies and spending on the costly, failed war continues to cost U.S. taxpayers more than $51 billion annually.

Bonus Quotation on Prohibition from H.L. Mencken in 1925:

Prohibition has not only failed in its promises but actually created additional serious and disturbing social problems throughout society. There is not less drunkenness in the Republic but more. There is not less crime, but more. … The cost of government is not smaller, but vastly greater. Respect for law has not increased, but diminished.

Conclusion from a Cato Institute Study on Prohibition (“Four Decades and Counting: The Continued Failure of the War on Drugs“) by Chris Coyne and Abigail Hall:

For more than 100 years, prohibition has been the primary policy in the United States with regard to illicit substances. As the data show, however, these policies fail on practically every margin. Economic thinking illustrates that these failures are not only understandable, but entirely predictable. As a result of prohibition and the changes it induces in the market for drugs, increased disease, death, violence, and cartels are all expectable outcomes. Moreover, economics can help us link together these policies with other issues, such as race relations and police militarization.

Bonus Prohibition-Related Charts Below. 

1. The end of Prohibition in 1933 also ended the deadliest period in US history for law enforcement, measured by the annual number of police officers killed in the line of duty by gunfire (see chart below).  During the years of Prohibition from 1920 to 1933, there were more than 2,500 US police officers killed by gunfire, which was an average rate of 180 per year, or about one every other day. The number of Prohibition-era police deaths by gunfire (2,516) is greater than the number of US military casualties from hostile action since 2001 in the US War in Afghanistan (1,865).

It’s the 83rd anniversary today of the end of alcohol prohibition (Drug War I); hopefully we’ll someday end our second failed attempt at prohibition (Drug War II) - Publications – AEI

2. Beer lovers marched in the 1930s to end Prohibition and publicly demanded “We Want Beer” (see photo above). Well, beer lovers today can thank those early beer lovers for their efforts to end the War on Beer, rejoice that we are now living in the “Golden Age of Beer” with a record number (5,301) of US breweries making some of the highest quality craft beer in the history of the world (see chart below)!

It’s the 83rd anniversary today of the end of alcohol prohibition (Drug War I); hopefully we’ll someday end our second failed attempt at prohibition (Drug War II) - Publications – AEI

It’s the 83rd anniversary today of the end of alcohol prohibition (Drug War I); hopefully we’ll someday end our second failed attempt at prohibition (Drug War II)
Mark Perry

Mark Perry

Mark J. Perry is concurrently a scholar at AEI and a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus. He is best known as the creator and editor of the popular economics blog Carpe Diem. At AEI, Perry writes about economic and financial issues for American.com and the AEIdeas blog.

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