In 1919, Congress enacted the Volstead Act, and the US began a struggle of more than a decade, which is now known as the era of Prohibition. It was the result of the temperance movement, which had become a prohibition movement. These prohibitionists thought that free individuals could not be trusted to consume alcohol in moderation, and they argued that this substance was the beginning of a moral slide into chaos and social upheaval. This view of alcohol became accepted by the esteemed members of Congress, who put a federal ban on the act of producing and selling alcohol. This, they argued, would reduce crime and have a positive effect on society as a whole.A decade later, though, it was clear that this view was entirely and utterly mistaken. The law of unintended (or were they?) consequences had struck once again, and black markets and organized crime reared its ugly face in a manner theretofore unseen. Moreover, the rise of criminal organizations had led to mass bribery and heavy influencing of local governments in many of America’s largest cities, leading to a reality in which minors were now given easy access to bootlegged alcohol of bad, and potentially unsafe, quality, exactly the opposite of what the supporters of the early prohibitionists had intended. The disaster that was Prohibition finally ended in 1933, when the Volstead Act was repealed. With its repeal, alcohol-fueled problems did not go away, but were massively alleviated, because now only the irresponsible user is targeted by law enforcement, and crime no longer has a foot in the production and distribution of alcohol.
Legalizing marijuana – an uphill battle
Cannabis also has numerous benefits in treating a variety of diseases, as well as providing pain relief for patients who are terminally ill. It just doesn’t seem that the way the government responds to marijuana can be explained rationally. The only effect of the policy is the increased crowdedness of prisons, straining of the judicial system and a continual distraction of law enforcement from the pursuit of actual violent crime and terror.
According to New Mexico’s Drug Policy Advisory Group, marijuana decriminalization would “result in greater availability of resources to respond to more serious crimes without any increased risks to public safety.” And this finding is supported by empirical observation of the states which have implemented such a policy (Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Oregon). Moreover, there is overwhelming public support for this policy as well. For example, according to recent polls, 72% of Americans would favor fines as the highest penalty for minor offenses related to growing or possession of cannabis. 80% support the use of medical marijuana.
It is clear that the War on Drug is not only a failure but a severe problem for the American justice system. It is of the utmost necessity that a drug policy is implemented which no longer creates criminals out of recreational and medical users of this plant. Instead of all the money and time that is wasted on this, law enforcement should concentrate on those who provide marijuana to minors and those who endanger others by irresponsible use. They should develop programs which focus on rehabilitation instead of incarceration and come up with an innovative approach to drug policy. They should emphasize education and information, instead of the all too common scare tactics. And lastly, they should immediately release everyone who has been unjustly convicted for nonviolent offenses related to marijuana.