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December 5 is Repeal Day

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 23 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

In 1929, Senator Morris Sheppard of Texas — author of the Eighteenth Amendment that created alcohol Prohibition, known as “the father of national Prohibition,” and the leading supporter of Prohibition in Congress — boasted:

“There is as much chance of repealing the Eighteenth Amendment as there is for a hummingbird to fly to the planet Mars with the Washington Monument tied to its tail.”

Just three years later, alcohol Prohibition was… repealed.

I love that quote. Those of us fighting to end the War on Drugs can take heart from it.

When Sen. Morris made his declaration, Prohibition had been a part of U.S. law for nearly a decade. It must have seemed to many to be a permanent fixture of American life.

Certainly no one could have guessed that the country was just a few years away from ending the disaster of Prohibition.

That makes me wonder. Are we perhaps closer today to ending today’s Prohibition — the War on Drugs — than we realize? Might an extra push from the growing liberty movement be all that is needed to accomplish this?

Prohibition - H. L. MenckenFriday, December 5 is a great time to ponder such thoughts. It’s the 81st anniversary of Repeal Day, the glorious day America ridded itself of the disastrous failure of alcohol Prohibition. Repeal Day should be publicized and celebrated by libertarians and other friends of freedom every year.

Like the War on Drugs, alcohol Prohibition was supported by many people for the highest motives and with great confidence in the government’s ability to successfully shape and mold society and individuals. The abuse of alcohol was (and remains today) a serious problem. Banning alcohol seemed, to millions, a reasonable way to handle this problem.

Prohibition began on January 16, 1920. America’s most famous evangelist, Dr. Billy Sunday, boldly proclaimed:

“The reign of tears is over. The slums will soon be only a memory. We will turn our prisons into factories and our jails into storehouses and corncribs. Men will walk upright now, women will smile and the children will laugh. Hell will be forever for rent.”

Some communities even shut down their jails, confident that they would no longer be needed.

Of course, it didn’t work out that way.

In a Cato Institute study (highly recommended) entitled “Alcohol Prohibition Was a Failure” economist Mark Thornton sums up the bitter fruit of this disastrous policy:

“Although consumption of alcohol fell at the beginning of Prohibition, it subsequently increased. Alcohol became more dangerous to consume; crime increased and became ‘organized’; the court and prison systems were stretched to the breaking point; and corruption of public officials was rampant. No measurable gains were made in productivity or reduced absenteeism. Prohibition removed a significant source of tax revenue and greatly increased government spending. It led many drinkers to switch to opium, marijuana, patent medicines, cocaine, and other dangerous substances that they would have been unlikely to encounter in the absence of Prohibition.”

And what about crime? “According to a study of 30 major U.S. cities, the number of crimes increased 24 percent between 1920 and 1921. …thefts and burglaries increased 9 percent, while homicides and incidents of assault and battery increased 13 percent. … violent crimes against persons and property continued to increase throughout Prohibition.”

Prohibition also created a massive prison state. “By 1932 the number of federal convicts had increased 561 percent, to 26,589, and the federal prison population had increased 366 percent. … Two-thirds of all prisoners received in 1930 had been convicted of alcohol and drug offenses, and that figure rises to 75 percent of violators if other commercial prohibitions are included.”

Sound familiar? Alcohol Prohibition offers a powerful, profound and easily understood example of the dangers of government social engineering. It’s a lesson Americans need to hear.

Celebrate and publicize Repeal Day this week. Some day — perhaps sooner than we dare think — we’ll have another Repeal to add to the celebration.

Libertarian Candidates Pledge: End the Failed and Immoral War on Drugs

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 18 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Scores of Libertarian Party candidates for federal office have pledged to downsize the bloated federal government — in these big and specific ways:

  • Eliminate the federal income tax
  • Abolish the NSA
  • Cut military spending by 60%
  • End the War on Drugs

End the War on DrugsWe’re exploring each of these pledges in detail, one per issue, because the Libertarian Party has done a great job of showing that these bold proposals are not only possible, but practical and enormously beneficial. (You can read about all four positions here.)

Here’s the final one: End the failed War on Drugs.

The candidates pledge: “If elected, I will sponsor legislation to end the War on Drugs, release all victimless drug ‘criminals’ from prison, abolish the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and cut taxes accordingly.”

Here is the Libertarian Party’s case for ending the failed War on Drugs:

  • The War on Drugs has proven far more deadly and destructive than drugs themselves. 
  • Just as alcohol prohibition prompted organized crime, consumption of stronger alcoholic drinks, and an epidemic of alcohol overdose deaths, drug prohibition has prompted the formation of deadly street gangs, use of stronger drugs, and an increase in drug overdose deaths.
  • Because of the Drug War, the United States incarcerates more people than any country on earth. More than 500,000 Americans are now serving time in jail or prison for drug “offenses.” They are peaceful citizens, separated from their children and families, who could be living productive lives. Instead, their incarceration has cost taxpayers more than $1 trillion since 1971.
  • More than 658,000 people are arrested every year for mere possession of marijuana, diverting attention from where it should be: on violent criminals.
  • Marijuana prohibition denies those suffering from cancer, AIDS, migraines, glaucoma, and other serious diseases their right to an effective treatment that both reduces suffering and saves lives.

When we end the War on Drugs:

  • Crime will go down dramatically, making our streets and homes safer.
  • Law enforcement will focus more on finding and prosecuting murderers, rapists, and thieves.
  • People now in prison who never harmed another human being will be free to go home to their families. Their children will grow up with their mom or dad at home.
  • Each taxpayer will get back hundreds of dollars — every year — that they now spend on today’s failed prohibition. Money they can save, spend, or give away to others in need.
  • People suffering from cancer, AIDS, and other serious diseases will have dignified and safe access to medical marijuana, giving them their best chance for a long and healthy life.
  • Finally, ending the War on Drugs sends the right message to kids:

Be personally responsible.
Be just, be reasonable, and honor individual rights.
Admit mistakes and get rid of bad laws that don’t work.
End unnecessary human suffering.

New York Times: End the Federal War on Marijuana

in Criminal Justice, Drugs, Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Stances on Issues by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

In a major and historic breakthrough for libertarians and other advocates of marijuana re-"Repeal Prohibition, Again" in the New York Timeslegalization, the New York Times editorial board has called for ending the federal war on marijuana.

Here are excerpts from the July 27 editorial, entitled “Repeal Prohibition, Again”:

“It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end [alcohol] Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.

“The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana. …

“There are no perfect answers to people’s legitimate concerns about marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every level — health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues — the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization. That will put decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs — at the state level. …

“The social costs of the marijuana laws are vast. There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to F.B.I. figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals.

“There is honest debate among scientists about the health effects of marijuana, but we believe that the evidence is overwhelming that addiction and dependence are relatively minor problems, especially compared with alcohol and tobacco. Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults. Claims that marijuana is a gateway to more dangerous drugs are as fanciful as the ‘Reefer Madness’ images of murder, rape and suicide. …

“Creating systems for regulating manufacture, sale and marketing will be complex. But those problems are solvable, and would have long been dealt with had we as a nation not clung to the decision to make marijuana production and use a federal crime. …

“We recognize that this Congress is as unlikely to take action on marijuana as it has been on other big issues. But it is long past time to repeal this version of Prohibition.”

The Times followed with a six-part series on marijuana legalization, which can be found under the text of their editorial.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance,commented on the groundbreaking editorial:

“This is of historic consequence — far bigger than most people assume. Some people in the country may perceive the Times editorial page as a liberal organ, but they should know that on this issue they’ve been cautious to a fault, even conservative. So for them to write what they did, at this juncture, demonstrated intellectual and moral clarity as well as courage.”

It should also be noted that what the New York Times is calling for is what the Libertarian Party and Ron Paul in his presidential campaigns called for — many years earlier.