Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform

committed to preventing tragedy that arises from illicit drug use

Not Cannabis, or not Cocaine, or not Heroin or ... not Prohibition?

by Peter Watney

The mistake made in USA in 1933 was to end prohibition of alcohol under the Volstead Act, but to leave in existence prohibition of cocaine and heroin under the Harrison Tax Act.

This grievous error was then compounded in 1937 with the Marihuana Tax Act, and by the various Acts that replaced them in USA and elsewhere after WWII.

What do I mean by 'Prohibition'?

I take it to be the wording of Article 2.5.b. of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961 of the United Nations:
    ... prohibit the production, manufacture, export and import of, trade in, possession or use of any such drug ...
however expressed in the various prohibitory Acts.

Why is it not all right to grade drugs so that the more 'dangerous' drugs may remain 'prohibited' while less dangerous (or more beneficial) drugs are released from 'prohibition'?

Because individual drugs, or their use or abuse by individuals, are not as dangerous as is 'prohibition' itself. 'Prohibition' automatically makes a substance more dangerous, and spreads its use and its abuse. In particular, 'prohibition' spreads the use and abuse of a substance to our children, the very people we particularly hope to defend.

The mechanism of 'prohibition' of a substance

  1. No substance has been 'prohibited' unless it is already desired and in use by a portion of the population. This is an almost certain prerequisite for 'prohibition'.
  2. We ought not expect our law enforcement officers to select which laws they should enforce rigorously and which they should ignore. Such a culture brings laws in general into disrepute.
  3. Transport price factor:
  1. Risk price factor:
  1. Pyramid selling:
  1. Concentration of substance
  1. Organised Crime
  1. Administrative Corruption
  1. Increasing incarceration and prosecution rates
  1. Civil rights erosion
  1. Political corruption
  1. Economic corruption

We must beware the temptation to consider that it is all right to retain 'prohibition' for some drugs, because they are considered more dangerous, but decriminalised others because they are considered less dangerous. To do so perpetuates the grevious errors identified above.  It is 'prohibition' that is the danger.

We must be aware, particularly in this US Presidential election year, that it is the party machines that get corrupted, where only candidates favourable to 'prohibition' will be selected. Only the drug warriors will attract sufficient campaign funds to stand a hope of election.