Prohibition: The Failed War on Cannabis
Alcohol Prohibition was repealed after just thirteen years because of the public’s reaction to rapidly unfolding unintended consequences—organized crime, increased use of hard alcohol, government waste, and lost tax revenues. So what have we gotten from our 78-year experiment with marijuana prohibition? Organized crime, increased use of stronger marijuana, government waste, and lost tax revenues. However, cannabis prohibition has endured for much longer than Alcohol Prohibition, and many Americans—including physicians—are desensitized to the societal ills fostered by our war on marijuana.
And yet, Alcohol Prohibition was a success compared to our war on cannabis. Studies show that alcohol use decreased during Prohibition, but marijuana use has increased drastically since its prohibition started. In fact, most physicians in the 1930s didn’t even realize that the medicine known as “Cannabis” was synonymous with the prohibitionists’ obscure and exotic Mexican “marijuana”—a confusion that may have been both deliberate and ethnically biased. After 80 years, marijuana prohibition has failed to advance the well being of the nation, and in several ways it has been counterproductive:
- There are more than 700,000 cannabis arrests in the United States annually, contributing to our nation’s crisis of mass incarceration and focusing law enforcement resources on cannabis prohibition instead of serious crimes.
- Dangerous marijuana substitutes — like Spice and K2 — have appeared in recent years, and they are much more harmful than marijuana itself.
- In one of our nation’s most shameful racial disparities, African-Americans are over 300% more likely than whites to be arrested for cannabis possession, despite similar usage rates between the two groups.
- According to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 80-90% of American eighteen-year-olds have reported for decades that marijuana is “very easy” or “fairly easy” to obtain. Outlawing cannabis use by adults has failed to prevent access by minors.
- Prohibition prevents many patients from obtaining medical cannabis, even in states with medical cannabis laws.