Yesterday (December 5) was Repeal Day and marked the 80th anniversary of the day in 1933 that the 21st Amendment to the US Constitution was passed to repeal the 18th Amendment, and that officially ended America’s 13-year “War on Booze” (alcohol prohibition) that started in 1920. The 21st amendment is unique among the 27 Amendments to the constitution because it is the only time a previous Amendment has been repealed, and it’s the only Amendment that was ratified by the state ratifying convention method.
To recognize Repeal Day, here are a few links, quotes, and data points:
1. From the Drug Policy Alliance post “80 Years Ago Today We Repealed Alcohol Prohibition…Now It’s Time to End Drug Prohibition“:
Eighty years ago today, the Twenty-first Amendment to the Constitution was ratified and alcohol Prohibition was officially repealed. If you only know one thing about Prohibition, it’s probably the fact that it was a tremendous failure. Making alcohol illegal led to huge increases in organized crime, corruption, and violence. For many of the reasons that led to its repeal, the same arguments can be made for why we need to end the war on drugs.
2. From the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition article “Next on the Agenda: Ending the Prohibition of Marijuana!“:
Thursday, December 5 marks the eightieth anniversary of the ratification of the 21st Amendment, which ended the prohibition of alcohol in 1933. The amendment repealed the 18th Amendment, passed in 1920, after more than a decade of increased crime, dangerously unregulated products, and a failure to reduce consumption convinced the American public prohibition was an ineffective and destructive way to attack the problems associated with substance use.
Alas, it was a lesson quickly forgotten. Decades later America repeated the mistake with the prohibition of drugs, heir to all of the same problems as alcohol prohibition and then some.
As former prosecutor and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition board member James Gierach says, “Al Capone and other gangsters thrived when government outlawed what people wanted. When booze went legit with the 21st Amendment, mobsters had to wait only 40 years before government did it again with drugs. Same problem, same solution: legalize, license, regulate and tax.”
Already, Colorado and Washington have legalized and regulated marijuana, and the momentum is building in states across the country to follow suit in order to reduce violence, increase oversight and realign the priorities of law enforcement officials who have too long been focused on an unwinnable, destructive war on drugs.
3. Here’s another cruel and disturbing part of our current, failed attempt at prohibition – federal drug offenders who go to trial and lose get triple the time behind bars compared to accepting a plea deal. The excerpt below is from the article “Plead Guilty or Go to Prison for Life? How Federal Drug Offenders Are Punished for Seeking Trials“:
Americans who fight federal drug charges in court but lose after a trial are likely to spend nearly three times as long in prison compared to those who accept a guilty plea deal, a new Human Rights Watch study of federal prosecutions and sentences has found.
“Prosecutors give drug defendants a so-called choice—in the most egregious cases, the choice can be to plead guilty to 10 years, or risk life without parole by going to trial. Prosecutors make offers few drug defendants can refuse. This is coercion pure and simple,” said Jamie Fellner, author of the 126-page Human Rights Watch report “An Offer You Can’t Refuse.”
Fellner’s analysis is a grim and disturbing look at a system that is intent on branding and jailing people as criminals for years, rather than a system where justice, rehabilitation or proportional sentencing is valued. The average sentence for federal drug offenders who accepted a plea deal in 2012—which was 97 percent of 25,560 offenders—was five years and four months. The average sentence for those convicted after a trial was 16 years.
Here are a few data points related to our second failed attempt at prohibition:
4. There are currently more than 100,000 federal prisoners serving jail time for drug offenses, and those drug offenders represent slightly more than half of all federal prisoners, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
5. So far in 2013, there have been more than 1.5 million drug arrests, and more than half of those drug arrests (803,000) are for the possession or sale of weeds. Those arrests have come at a cost to local, state and federal law enforcement agencies of more than $38,000,000, which is equivalent to the state GDP of Wyoming ($38.2 billion in 2013). Source: LEAP.
Hopefully, we’ll have another Repeal Day sometime in the future, when we can celebrate an end to America’s senseless, cruel, costly and failed War on
Drugs Otherwise Peaceful Americans Who Chose to Ingest Intoxicants and Weeds Not Currently Approved of by the Government, Who Will Lock Users Up in Cages if Caught.