Prohibition vs War on Drugs

Topics: Illegal drug trade, Prohibition in the United States, Drug addiction Pages: 7 (2774 words) Published: January 2, 2002
The United States of America©ˆs war on drugs today is very similar to America©ˆs Prohibition of Alcohol in the 1920©ˆs. These two major issues of their time may not seem like they can be logically compared, but statistics for usage and a correlating rise in crime for both eras show a strong relationship. There is also a tendency for an outright defiance of the laws and law makers of the United States government in both cases. Most people today think that the prohibition of the 1920©ˆs and the current war on drugs have many contrasting points. The opposite is true. However, the points that do contrast are more opinion-based than fact oriented. The following paragraphs will attempt to clearly and effectively show a comparison and contrast between America©ˆs famous Prohibition era and the War on Drugs being waged today. First, a general comprehension of how Prohibition came about is necessary to the understanding of the effects it had on the general population. The anti-drinkers started to become organized around the turn of the century and formed the Anti-Saloon League. This very vocal group were fed up with the constant public drunkenness and the fights that were caused. They spent millions of dollars between 1900 and 1919 in an attempt to try to persuade people to stop drinking. Two and a half million dollars raised in the effort to stop the drinking, came from the middle and poor classes because these were the people most affected by the problem. The Anti-Saloon League had an effect on a great many people. By 1917, a full twenty five states were dry. This meant that there was no legal use of alcohol in those twenty five states.

On December 18th, 1917, the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed by a majority vote in the House of Representatives, but it would not go into effect as law unless three fourths of the states ratified it within seven years. The drinkers were happy because they thought that the 18th Amendment would never be ratified. However, within one year and eight days, thirty six states - the three quarters necessary - voted for the 18th Amendment outlawing the manufacture, sale, transportation, import and export of liquor. The Volstead Act was then passed to prohibit the use of intoxicating liquors. January 17th, 1920, at exactly midnight, was when Prohibition went into effect. One minute after the law passed, $100,000 worth of alcohol was stolen from a government facility. This was the beginning of a new and violent crime wave in America. Four other cases of alcohol-related robberies alone were reported that night. The increase in crime was just one of the many problems created by Prohibition that was stupidly overlooked by the proponents of the new law. There were many others. Gangs and the Mafia took over the streets resulting in bloody feuds. They made massive amounts of money importing alcohol to the public. These organized crime elements had a lot of police paid off to look the other way while they went about their business. Smuggling liquor became a quick way to make money. Often, the liquor was homemade and very impure. ©¯Moonshine©˜ and other homemade alcohol resulted in 4,154 deaths in 1925 alone. By the mid 1920©ˆs, around forty million dollars worth of liquor had been illegally imported into the United States and the undermanned police force was powerless to stop it. At this time, around ten percent of the population was involved in some way in the illicit liquor business. In fact, some of the wealthiest and most influential families in the U.S. today got the start of their fortunes during prohibition.

Speakeasies were opened everywhere throughout the country. These were secret or hidden bars behind behind everyday business fronts. Passwords were often needed by patrons to get into the speakeasies. Although police made a lot of busts and arrests for alcohol, most of the general population was not effected by their actions. During the time span...
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