++ SouthernWolf.net - Cops commemorate Prohibition's repeal with call for drug reform

Cops commemorate Prohibition's repeal with call for drug reform
Date: Monday, December 08, 2008 @ 16:16:48 EST
Topic: Drugs

Seventy-five years ago, one of the stupider legal experiments in American history came to a blessed end with the ratification of the 21st Amendment on December 5, 1933, repealing the 18th Amendment and ending Prohibition. An organization made up of law-enforcement officers is celebrating that termination of a disastrous violation of personal liberty by calling for an end to yet another failed prohibitionist venture: the war on drugs. As it turns out, we might just save a lot of money, as well as lives and freedom, by heeding their call.

As part of the We Can Do It Again campaign, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition has released a report pointing out the dangerous parallels between alcohol prohibition and the war on drugs, including violence, vast expense, diversion of law-enforcement resources, pointless incarceration of huge numbers of people and corruption of the criminal justice system -- even as use of the banned intoxicants actually increases amidst widespread defiance of the law.

You mean the use of drugs and alcohol increased after they were banned? You bet.

We Can Do It Again: Repealing Today's Failed Prohibition (PDF) points out:

While estimates on alcohol use before, during and immediately after prohibition rely upon incomplete data, sociologists identify two trends: first, alcohol became associated with a rebellious, adventurous lifestyle, which increased its desirability, especially among the young. Second, alcohol remained fully present in daily urban life. In New York City, for example, in the year before prohibition went into effect, there were 15,000 saloons. Five years into prohibition, those saloons were replaced by as many as 32,000 underground speakeasies. It is without question that problematic alcohol use of all kinds increased due to this policy.

The prohibited drug became more available in its most concentrated and potent form, a natural result of the costs involved in smuggling and concealing it. Beer and wine were largely replaced by liquor in illegal speakeasies.

Decades later, the same thing, predictably, occurred with other intoxicants.

According to the federal government, in the decade preceding the start of the war, 4 million people in the United States above the age of 12 had used an illegal drug in their lifetime (2 percent of the population). By 2007, the government revealed that 114 million people above the age of 12 had tried an illegal drug (46 percent of that population), an increase of 2,850 percent. Drug use became a badge of rebellion, although very widely worn. According to the World Health Organization, the United States has the highest rates of marijuana and cocaine use in the world, despite our having some of the harshest penalties.

Drugs have become more concentrated and potent, a natural result of the costs involved in avoiding law enforcement. The average purity of cocaine at retail increased from 40 percent pure in 1981 to 70 percent pure in 2003, while its wholesale cost dropped by 84 percent over the same period. The purity of street-level heroin nearly tripled, while its wholesale cost has dropped by more than 86 percent.

The money involved in satisfying the demand for illegal intoxicants fueled the growth of violent criminal enterprises then and now. The Mafia grew out of Prohibition just as various gangs and drug cartels have been spawned by laws against drugs.

The LEAP report refers to the corrupting effect of prohibitionist laws on the criminal justic system; I can find my own evidence for that claim in the headlines. Just two days ago, news broke in Illinois that "10 Cook County corrections officers and sheriff's deputies, four Harvey police officers and one Chicago officer were charged with providing protection for what they thought were a dozen large-scale shipments of cocaine and heroin." The corrupt officers were arrested in an FBI sting that was spurred by reports that the services of bent cops were widely available to drug dealers in the area.

Cops go bad because the money is so good. When you try to forbid commerce in popular goods and services, the trade goes underground and some of the loot always slips into the pockets of those willing to look the other way, or even grease the wheels of illicit business. Even more money goes to pointlessly chasing after producers, sellers and consumers of the banned substances. And, of course, underground vendors don't pay sales taxes.

How much money are we talking about?

In The Budgetary Implications of Drug Prohibition (PDF), Harvard University economist Jeffery A. Miron estimates that the war on drugs sucks something on the order of $76 billion from the economy every year.

The report estimates that legalizing drugs would save roughly $44.1 billion per year in government expenditure on enforcement of prohibition. $30.3 billion of this savings would accrue to state and local governments, while $13.8 billion would accrue to the federal government. Approximately $12.9 billion of the savings would results from legalization of marijuana, $19.3 billion from legalization of cocaine and heroin, and $11.6 from legalization of other drugs.

The report also estimates that drug legalization would yield tax revenue of $32.7 billion annually, assuming legal drugs are taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco. Approximately $6.7 of this revenue would result from legalization of marijuana, $22.5 billion from legalization of cocaine and heroin, and $3.5 from legalization of other drugs.

That's a lot of money that government officials could use on more productive projects or even (we can dream) return to the taxpayers.

LEAP is an organization made up of current and former police officers, prosecutors and judges who have seen the effects of drug prohibition close-up and know that it's a doomed effort that does more harm than good. The executive director is Jack Cole, a former New Jersey state police lieutenant. Other board members include: Sheriff Bill Masters of San Miguel County, Colorado; Joseph McNamara, the fomer police chief of San Jose, California; Warren W. Eginton, a U.S. district judge in Connecticut; Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico; and other veterans of the badge, the bench and the prosecutor's office.

One-time drug warriors all, they've concluded that the war on drugs is a lost cause that hurts our liberty and our institutions. Seventy-five years after we conceded the foolishness of Prohibition, the law-enforcement officers of LEAP say it's time to face reality once again and end another failed effort to stop millions of people from doing what they're bound and determined to do.

Didloyal Opposition

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