Prohibition in Chicago: Different Day, Same Story

Feb 15, 2013

Al Capone, Cartels, Chicago, Joaquin Guzman, Mexican Drug War, Prohibition

Like a lot of people, my morning routine involves clicking around a few major news sites to see what people are talking about that day. Disgusting cruise ships and exploding Russian meteorites aside, one of the stories that caught my eye today was a story about Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the head of the notorious Sinaloa cartel in Mexico. Yesterday, the Chicago Crime Commission named Guzman “Public Enemy Number One,” a title CNN notes was created for bootlegger and gangster Al Capone.


Not since Capone "has any criminal deserved this title more than Joaquin Guzman," commission President J.R. Davis said in a news release. "Guzman is the major supplier of narcotics to Chicago. His agents are working in the Chicago area importing vast quantities of drugs for sale throughout the Chicago region and collecting and sending to Mexico tens of millions of dollars in drug money."

The distinction isn’t surprising. Guzman’s syndicate is the single largest supplier of marijuana and other drugs that come into the U.S. It’s a lucrative gig — according to Forbes, Guzman’s net worth exceeds $1 billion — which explains why Guzman so ruthlessly protects his turf. Estimates of the death toll in Mexico’s drug war are now over 60,000.

What is surprising is that neither CNN’s story nor most of America’s elected officials have connected the dots between Capone and Guzman and how prohibition was the source of their power and wealth. Whether it’s the 1920's or 2013, ceding control of a lucrative market to criminals enriches thugs like Capone and Guzman. Conversely, just as ending alcohol prohibition put bootleggers out of business, ending marijuana prohibition would deal a significant blow to drug trafficking cartels like Guzman’s.