December 5th of this year marks the 80th anniversary of the end of alcohol prohibition in the United States. Prohibition lasted 13 years, between January 19, 1920 and December 5, 1933. Prohibition contributed to a failing economy, directly bolstered organized crime, and remains one of the biggest public policy failures in US history.
The restaurant and entertainment industries suffered under prohibition, while thousands of workers lost jobs as barrel makers, truckers, waiters, and every other job associated with the businesses of brewing and distilling. Prohibition also cost the federal government $300 million to enforce and lost $11 billion in tax revenue. The problems weren’t just economic; the laws that enforced prohibition were also filled with loopholes. One law allowed pharmacists to prescribe whiskey to patients, which resulted in a huge surge of pharmacy registrations. Another resulted in a surge of church and synagogue attendance, not because of any religious epiphanies but because wine was still allowed in religious services.
Crime surged under prohibition, with newly organized crime syndicates protecting and facilitating the new illicit market. Law enforcement officials were corrupted with bribes, and those that weren’t corrupt filled courtrooms and jails with prohibition offenders. The US started spending more money on the prison system and incarcerated citizens under a law that would be repealed after less than 15 years.
80 years later, we can see that the prohibition of alcohol was an enormous mistake. Americans actually drank more under prohibition than they did before it, and the illicit market for alcohol prompted a new era of organized crime. On this anniversary, let us reflect on current prohibition in the United States. How many tax dollars does the US forfeit in the name of marijuana prohibition? How many of its citizens’ tax dollars does the government waste by arresting non-violent offenders of that prohibition? How has this policy fostered the growth of organized crime and cartels in the United States and abroad? When will the end of marijuana prohibition have its anniversary?
MPP communications director Mason Tvert recently appeared on CNN to discuss the Gallup poll that found 58% of Americans now support legalizing marijuana.
UPDATE: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will testify at the hearing.
U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced Monday that the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on “Conflicts Between State and Federal Marijuana Laws.” Sen. Leahy has reportedly invited U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole to speak to the committee.
The hearing is scheduled for September 10 at 10 a.m. ET in Room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building.
Sen. Leahy has said he believes state laws making marijuana legal for adult or medical use “should be respected.”
MPP’s director of government relations Dan Riffle had this to say:
“Two states have made marijuana legal for adult use and are establishing regulated systems of production and distribution. Twenty states plus our nation’s capital have made it legal for medical use. By failing to recognize the decisions of voters and legislators in those states, current federal law is undermining their ability to implement and enforce those laws.
“Marijuana prohibition’s days are numbered, and everyone in Washington knows that. It’s time for Congress to stop ignoring the issue and develop a policy that allows states to adopt the most efficient and effective marijuana laws possible. We need to put the ‘reefer madness’ policies of the 1930s behind us and adopt an evidence-based approach for the 21st century.”
This could be a really big deal. We’ll keep you posted.
MPP’s video ad that began airing Friday on a jumbotron outside the NASCAR Brickyard 400 was pulled later that afternoon by the media company that owns the video screen. Grazie Media, which had solicited the ad from MPP, approved its content, and accepted payment for it, reportedly came under fire from marijuana prohibitionist organizations such as Save Our Society From Drugs, which claimed the ad’s message that marijuana is safer than alcohol was false and misleading.
In a statement, MPP’s Mason Tvert said:
We find it odd that this company is willing to run ads at an alcohol-fueled event, yet unwilling to run an ad that simply highlights the ways in which marijuana is less harmful than alcohol. This is the exact type of hypocrisy that motivated us to run this ad. We wanted to make people think about the absurdity of laws that allow adults to use alcohol but punish them for making the safer choice to use marijuana instead, if that is what they prefer.
Despite only airing at the race for a few hours, the ad generated a wealth of national and local media coverage, including two segments on CNN and one on CNBC. The video has already received more than 550,000 views on YouTube.
NASCAR fans attending this weekend’s Brickyard 400 races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be greeted by an MPP video ad in support of making marijuana legal for adults. It is scheduled to air dozens of times on a jumbotron outside the entrance of the speedway, which will be “the epicenter of American stock car racing and North American sports car racing” this weekend, according to the event’s website
The ad, which is already getting national media attention, is reminiscent of a beer commercial and highlights the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol by characterizing marijuana as a “new ‘beer’” that is less harmful to the consumer and to society. Watch the ad below:
MPP released the following statement from communications director Mason Tvert:
“Our goal is to make this weekend’s event as educational as it will be enjoyable. We simply want those adults who will be enjoying a beer or two at the race this weekend to think about the fact that marijuana is an objectively less harmful product.”
“Marijuana is less toxic and less addictive than alcohol, and it is far less likely to contribute to violent and reckless behavior. We hope racing fans who still think marijuana should be illegal will question the logic of punishing adults for using a safer substance than those produced by sponsors of NASCAR events and racing teams.”