From 1920 to 1933, the United States ban all sales of alcohol. This period, often referred to as the ‘Prohibition Period,’ lasted for 13 years. The ban did extraordinarily little to curtail the sale of alcoholic beverages. All it did was create a lucrative black market headed by various crime families and the underground world of speakeasies.
One would think that the American legal system would learn its lesson after the failure of the alcohol prohibit, but not. Instead, the most extended prohibition in history started in 1937. Known as the Cannabis or Marijuana Prohibition, it remains in effect to this day at a federal level. Interestingly, just like with alcohol, once the Drug Enforcement Agency listed cannabis as an illegal substance its popularity and price rose substantially. Marijuana quickly became a lucrative product for American crime families and the drug cartels.
Problems Caused by the Marijuana Prohibition
Here are just a few things caused by the Marijuana Prohibition:
- Crime Increase: During the Alcohol Prohibition crime increased and the same has happened with marijuana. Drug cartels and the mafia have made billions of dollars off cannabis.
- Race Inequality: Bootleggers of alcohol tended to be white, even members of the KKK. However, those arrested for the use of alcohol and marijuana are predominately African American and Latino.
- Demand: When something is limited or hard to obtain it becomes more coveted and tends to carry a high price tag. Prohibiting alcohol and marijuana only increases the demand
- Economic Loss: During the Alcohol Prohibition, the U.S. government lost out on millions of dollars in tax revenue. The same can be said of marijuana but the decades of prohibition have cost the government trillions in lost tax revenue. Also, the billions spent to combat the drug cartel’s importation of marijuana, and the other illicit activities could have been saved.
Drug Supply and Demand
Undoubtedly, prohibition of marijuana on a federal level continues to be a dismal outdated failure. The law of supply and demand continues to push cannabis. Nowadays, many states of legalized marijuana not only for medicinal use but also recreational. States such as Colorado are now reaping billions in tax revenue from the sales of recreational marijuana.
The Mafia and Drug Cartels
A hundred years ago mafia families became unbelievably wealthy off the bootlegging of alcohol. After the prohibition of alcohol ended, the federal government shifted its sights to drugs such as marijuana. Nowadays, new generations of gangsters and drug cartels have emerged that are not only high-tech but also ruthless. Cartels such as the Sinaloa and the Los Zetas are worth billions and know of their barbaric practices.
Bootleggers of the past vs. drug cartels of today:
- Drug cartels today move billions of dollars’ worth of drugs into the United States daily. This is far more money than mafiosos Al Capone or Lucky Luciano ever dreamed of making.
- Yes, the mafia has always had a reputation for being ruthless, but their savagery does not compare to the new drug cartel which has killed thousands throughout Mexico and the US.
- Drug cartels now fight for territories. They must control the drug highways and other sophisticated routes that they utilize to bring the narcotics and marijuana into the U.S.
- When the U.S. repealed alcohol prohibition, the economy was invigorated with added jobs and tax revenues. Big companies no longer fought or killed each other to be the top dog. In California, after the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, the state started to experience less drug-related crime, especially along the major drug routes of the southern portion of the country.
Nationwide Recreational Marijuana
As of Nov. 2018, marijuana legalization is sweeping the United States. Currently, ten states and Washington, DC, have legalized marijuana for recreational use for adults over 21. An additional 33 states have legalized medical marijuana. At this time cannabis remains illegal on a federal level but times are swiftly changing. A recent poll released by the Pew Research Center, revealed that 62 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana. At some point, as more states legalize marijuana for recreational use, the federal government needs to sit up and take notice of the fact that marijuana prohibition has not worked for 80 years.