Alcohol, Marijuana Prohibitions Don’t Work

Aug 22, 2013

Pro­hi­bi­tion doesn’t work.  Not in alco­hol.  Not in mar­i­juana.  Human nature is just too nat­ural for such pro­hi­bi­tions to work beyond the scale of indi­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies. This is what the Oglala Sioux Tribe decided last week in a his­toric, and extremely close ref­er­en­dum at the infa­mous Pine Ridge Reser­va­tion in South Dakota.  For the first time in 124 years, and after months of intense cam­paign­ing, they decided to per­mit the sale of “fire­wa­ter.” Why? Because boot­legged booze has cre­ated “some of the high­est rates of alco­holism in Indian Coun­try and alco­holism is often con­nected with the high rate of domes­tic abuse, sui­cide, birth defects and vio­lent crime on the reser­va­tion.” This quote comes from the Rapid City Jour­nal on Aug.  15, which head­lined this story. By legal­iz­ing sales, the tribe will have the power to bank­rupt the preda­tory liquor stores that line the edge of the reser­va­tion; reg­u­late con­sump­tion, espe­cially for chil­dren and preg­nant women; and raise tax rev­enue for pro­grams deal­ing with sub­stance abuse and fetal alco­hol syn­drome.  The Jour­nal arti­cle fea­tured a great-grandmother as the pri­mary care­taker for her great-grandchildren because her grand­daugh­ter is alco­holic.  Nev­er­the­less, she and 1,678 oth­ers voted to keep the reser­va­tion “dry” to pre­vent even worse con­di­tions.  Worse than what? Three gen­er­a­tions out of com­mis­sion instead of two? Luck­ily, a slight major­ity of 1,843 vot­ers car­ried the day to cre­ate a “wet” reser­va­tion. This was big news for me last week because I was vis­it­ing fam­ily in my home­town of Bemidji, Minn., which has a large pop­u­la­tion of Native Amer­i­cans, many of whom still resem­ble the his­toric pho­tographs of eth­nol­o­gist Edward Cur­tis.  The largest nearby reser­va­tion, Red Lake, remains dry, even though it hurts their casino rev­enues and has done lit­tle to restrict the social dam­age of alco­hol. The dry sta­tus of Red Lake echoes the 18th Amend­ment to the U.S.  Con­sti­tu­tion, which banned alco­hol sales on the premise that soci­ety would ben­e­fit.  The new wet sta­tus of Pine Ridge echoes the 21st Amend­ment, which repealed that law because the neg­a­tive con­se­quences out­weighed the pos­i­tive, most impor­tantly the fla­grant dis­re­gard for the rule of law by oth­er­wise law-abiding cit­i­zens. The Pine Ridge vote also echoes recent trends in mar­i­juana leg­is­la­tion.  Twenty states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia have legal­ized med­ical mar­i­juana even though the fed­eral gov­ern­ment doesn’t rec­og­nize the ben­e­fit.  Con­necti­cut is among them.  In fact, East Hart­ford is con­sid­er­ing an enor­mous facil­ity for grow­ing med­ical weed.  The com­mu­nity stands to ben­e­fit from the new jobs and tax­able rev­enue.  Con­necti­cut and 16 other states have decrim­i­nal­ized pos­ses­sion even though pot remains ille­gal at the fed­eral level.  And two states, Wash­ing­ton and Col­orado, have legal­ized adult pos­ses­sion.  In fact, a pot fes­ti­val was under­way in Seat­tle when I wrote this col­umn, and the police were hand­ing out munchies instead of cita­tions.  Given these trends, it’s only a mat­ter of time before the pro­hi­bi­tion against mar­i­juana is repealed nation­ally. This will not come with­out social costs.  As par­ent, I fear for the neu­ro­log­i­cal con­se­quences of heavy pot use on teenage brains.  As a teacher, I fear for the work ethic of a ris­ing gen­er­a­tion.  As a cit­i­zen, I fear for the loss of work­place effi­ciency, the higher inci­dence of work­place acci­dents, and for the asso­ci­ated costs that I will share as a tax­payer. Obvi­ously, there is no good solu­tion at the gov­ern­ment level.  Pro­hi­bi­tion cre­ates more prob­lems than it solves.  Reg­u­la­tion is costly and oner­ous.  The only good solu­tion is per­sonal choice. Like most of my cohort, I have per­son­ally expe­ri­enced the plea­sures of alco­hol and mar­i­juana use, and have wit­nessed the dan­gers asso­ci­ated with their abuse.  For me, the dis­ad­van­tages of both sub­stances out­weigh their advan­tages.  I’m bet­ter off with­out alco­hol because it was cramp­ing my style and putting me to sleep.  And, I’m bet­ter off with­out dope because – when I dal­lied with it decades ago – — it dis­torted my real­ity and robbed me of my ini­tia­tive. With­out my ini­tia­tive, I’d be lit­tle more than a lotus-eater mooching off others.

d81940fb17plants.jpg 150x109 Alcohol, Marijuana Prohibitions Don’t Work

Read more:
Alco­hol, Mar­i­juana Pro­hi­bi­tions Don’t Work

Related Posts

Share This

Leave a Comment