Prohibition Then & Now
Chicago is particularly well suited to understand the failure of prohibition
The rackets spawned by enactment of the Prohibition Amendment, illegal brewing, distilling and distribution of beer and liquor, were viewed as "growth industries." Torrio, abetted by Al Capone, intended to take full advantage of opportunities. The mobs also developed interests in legitimate businesses, in the cleaning and dyeing field, and cultivated influence with receptive public officials, labor unions and employees' associations.[Source: FBI]
"The day we regulate drugs to adults, we eliminate easy access for our children, we evaporate the worth of Osama's heroin stash, we negate the Colombian drug cartels, we basically eliminate overdose deaths, and we begin to restore respect for the U.S. system of justice now tainted by black market billions."
LEAP official Mike Smithson says America's prohibition of narcotics puts the drug business into the hands of armed criminals, producing "a St. Valentine's Day massacre every week." He referred to the famous 1929 event in Chicago, when seven rum-runners of the Bugs Moran gang were mowed down in an illegal liquor warehouse by the rival Al Capone gang.
Prohibition makes drugs more dangerous
Throughout all of history, there have always been people who will find a way to get high. Prohibition doesn't stop that. But it does increase the likelihood of fatalities.
Prohibition 2 (2006)
Even Fisher, the preeminent academic supporter of Prohibition, recognized the danger of such products.
I am credibly informed that a very conservative reckoning would set the poisonous effects of bootleg beverages as compared with medicinal liquors at ten to one; that is, it requires only a tenth as much bootleg liquor as of pre-prohibition liquor to produce a given degree of drunkenness.
The reason, of course, is that bootleg liquor is so concentrated and almost invariably contains other and more deadly poisons than mere ethyl alcohol.
There were few if any production standards during Prohibition, and the potency and quality of products varied greatly, making it difficult to predict their effect. The production of moonshine during Prohibition was undertaken by an army of amateurs and often resulted in products that could harm or kill the consumer. Those products were also likely to contain dangerous adulterants, a government requirement for industrial alcohol.
According to Thomas Coffey, "the death rate from poisoned liquor was appallingly high throughout the country. In 1925 the national toll was 4,154 as compared to 1,064 in 1920. And the increasing number of deaths created a public relations problem for . . . the drys because they weren't exactly accidental." Will Rogers remarked that "governments used to murder by the bullet only. Now it's by the quart."
Chicago police and DEA agents conducted a series of raids on a gang suspected of dealing a deadly heroin-fentanyl mix that has killed more than 130 users, USA Today reported June 22.
Raids conducted in Chicago, Texas and Ohio resulted in 30 arrests, including a Chicago police officer with alleged gang ties. The raids were the result of a yearlong investigation into the Mickey Cobras, a gang suspected of dealing the heroin/fentanyl mix and other drugs in at least 10 Chicago locations. The mix is blamed for 53 deaths and 362 other overdoses in Chicago alone.
Court papers allege that Chicago Mickey Cobras members got the heroin/fentanyl mix from another gang member in Texas, who in turn got the drugs from suppliers in Mexico.
We have the luxury, when looking back at alcohol prohibition, of seeing all the factors and understanding that the costs far outweighed any perceived benefits. Sure, alcohol use went down to begin with, and then criminal profits started to soar and use and abuse went up. But any mild temporary reduction of alcohol use couldn't possibly balance out the violence, corruption and criminality spawned by prohibition, not to mention the lack of safety controls and age regulation. Chicago certainly doesn't want another Capone. And yet that's what we get with drug prohibition.
The Drug Enforcement Administration fully realizes that drug prohibition has the same negative elements that doomed alcohol prohibition. So now we even have the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration trying to re-write history and claim that alcohol prohibition was a success.
DEA head Karen Tandy
You only need to look at Prohibition to see that criminalizing an activity suppresses it, and legalization increases it.
If only it were that simple.
Cook County Alcohol Deaths (prohibition started in 1920):
National Homicide Rates (prohibition 1920 - 1933):
Of course, many different factors could have influenced these figures, but the fact that prohibition dramatically increased risks and violence is undeniable.
To consider only prohibition's affect on usage rates is dishonest. Additionally, no reliable alcohol usage figures are available during alcohol prohibition, since sales were illegal.