The Failure of Prohibition in the United States

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It is an abject failure of the aggressive drug enforcement policy in the United States which puts millions of individuals in prison for casual drug use costing over one trillion dollars. Through regulating drug use instead of outlawing it per capita leisure drug use in the United States can be same or lower than the current situation and safer for buyers and not costly to society in regards to socioeconomic harm. The drug cartel violence in Mexico and other countries is as a result of this failed policy which has also affected the United States in such a destructive way. The worry about drugs and the drug problem is intensified and magnified, and forty years later the war on drugs has not been successful (Rorabaugh, 144). The sale of alcohol is regulated, for instance, the minors are prohibited from purchasing and consuming it, framing laws for its purity and manufacture, specifying places of its sale among other factors. Apparently, this is due to the potentially harmful effects when taken in excess, for example, poor health consequences leading to injury or death, in addition to increasing public health budgets to taxpayers. Therefore, through controlling this particular drug its consumption is allowed while having safeguards, balancing, personal freedom with the communal safety and wellbeing of society. The approach to alcohol regulation seems to be entirely reasonable, and it can be said it is currently regulated since it remains the third preventable cause of death in the United States. 

There were not many laws on the book making psychoactive drugs illegal from 5000BC until AD 1920s and very few people were concerned about them. Then, after a movement dated back to 1907 in the United States, the United States Constitution was amended in 1919 the 18th Amendment after certain religiously pious protestant persuaded Congress of the ills of drunkenness and prohibit consumption, sale and transportation of alcohol. Through eliminating the industry that manufactured, sold and distributed alcohol in the United States prohibition was an approach formed to reduce drinking. The wholesale and retail sellers, vintners, brewers and distillers of alcohol saw their license to do business taken away by the 18th Amendment to the United States. There was a concern of a culture of drinking among some sectors of the population with the enduring immigration from Europe, by the leaders of the prohibition movement who were worried at the drinking culture of Americans. In 1893, with the formation of anti-saloon league, the prohibition movement’s strength grew. There was a success in enacting local prohibition laws through the organizations that supported prohibition and it eventually became a national effort (Olives, 205).

The reduction of tax burden created by prisons, corruption and crime, and solving social problems was the purpose of prohibition, and also improve health and hygiene in America. Generally, the consequences were mainly unanticipated and the main goals were not attained successfully. Lack of popular support was partly the failure of the Act; it was hard to force many individuals who used to consume alcohol to quit their personal customs and habits. Additionally, the enforcement was made harder and did not minimize corruption by the Volstead Act which was ignored by police and public officers. In urban areas prohibition did not stop people consuming alcohol; the poor brewed their own beer secretly at home while a number of speakeasies provided alcohol to the rich people. In any case, criminals were glamorized and alcohol consumption did not decrease. Most Americans were not affected by prohibition because they could turn to underground and acquire alcohol though the risen price made it unaffordable in rural areas. 

There was a rapid rise of illegal alcohol industry due to demand of the commodity. The bootleggers made a lot of tax-free money who well organized the transaction. Lack of sufficient government agents and lack of enough effort by the state officials was the key reason this illegal sales alcohol thrived. The increased crime like prostitution and drugs was brought by bootleggers and criminal gangs. The goal made by the government was not meant of decreasing the crime rate. Under prohibition consumption of alcohol declined radically, consumption alcohol was thirty percent of the pre-prohibition level in the early 1920s. With illegal supplies of alcohol growing and a new generation of Americans ignore the law and disallow the attitude of self-sacrifice which was the basis of the prohibition movement, drinking alcohol grew fairly in the last years of prohibition. Nonetheless, consumption rate rose to their pre-prohibition levels after repeal. In that sense, prohibition did not work because it did not meet its intended goal and instead brought in gangs and increased crime rate (MacGirr, 78).

Organized crime had thrived in America as federal agents and police did little more than slow the flow of alcohol. The federal and state governments lost billions of tax revenue as large-scale bootleggers built criminal empires out of illegal distribution efforts. The Prohibition-era term of saloons in most urban areas, alcohol consumption was largely accepted. In the early 1930s, prohibition lost popular support for costing billions and failing to enforce sobriety. In 1933, national prohibition was ended through the 21st Amendment to the constitution. 

Prohibition was 1919 to 1933 when sale, manufacture and transportation of alcoholic beverages was prohibited as stipulated in the 18th Amendment of the United States. On the other hand, to fight the supply and decrease the demand for the illegal drug business for particular immoral, harmful and dangerous drugs, there is a war on drugs. What is notable is not how these programs started and their achievement but rather the reasons behind their formation. Prohibition was a national initiative aimed at ending social challenges; it would reduce the crime rate and tax rates, and eliminate poverty. Similarly, war on drugs was put forward with the same benefits. In the United States during the great depression with the eventual legalization of alcohol created new tax revenue, on the other hand, billions of dollars are consumed by the war on drugs which is still a financial black hole. The passing of both regulations has led to the formation of organized crime to operate in the United States (Hari, 96).

After the first prohibition what the government should know is that it is essential to regulate these substances and protect the citizens instead of enforcing their laws. For undertaking such an approach it only distances the society from their point of view and led to a more interest in the nature of these substances. A number of drug criminals still pour into jail and prisons with a lot of marijuana, cocaine and heroin cross borders unimpeded, violent and dangerous traffickers endanger the lives of people in the urban areas, after many years of criminal prohibition and rigorous law enforcement efforts to end the country of illegal drugs. Through denying individuals the chance to turn to drug users and perhaps addicts, drug prohibition promises a healthier community and the reality of prohibition contradicts this promise. There is no quality control when drugs are illegal this because the government cannot control standards of potency, purity and quality (Reznicek, 45). Consequently, the users of these street drugs get diseases and sometimes die since the substances are often contaminated. Other serious social problems and challenges have been created by drug prohibition which has failed to restrain or minimize the dangerous effects of drug use. The problem of drug use and the costs of drug prohibition make the inner city society to suffer. Lastly, turf fights and trade clashes among competing for drug businesses as well as to enforcement responses to those fights, take place disproportionately in poor societies leading to inner towns’ wars regions and people who reside there become primary casualties.  


United States drug approach is exorbitant, in reverse wreckage regarding squandered cash, financial mischief caused to its inhabitants, and above all, its articulate pointlessness in lessening drug utilize, medicate misuse, and fierce wrongdoing. The time-tried response to this problem is to just invert course, controlling the offer of as of now illicit medications similarly as liquor and tobacco are managed. The unavoidable outcome would almost certainly be like what Portugal, different nations, and a few expresses that have changed medication arrangements have encountered: decreased medication utilize, bring down general wellbeing costs, expanded medication restoration, and more noteworthy open income from expenses. This arrangement in principle isn't too muddled. Executing this arrangement inside the mind-boggling impulses of United States governmental issues, nevertheless, is another issue.

Works Cited

Hari, Johann. Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs. New York [etc.: Bloomsbury, 2016. Print.

MacGirr, Lisa. The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State. , 2016. Print.

Olives Thompson, Glen. "Slowly Learning The Hard Way: U.S. America’S War On Drugs And Implications For Mexico". Norteamérica, vol 9, no. 2, 2014, pp. 59-85. Universidad Nacional Autonoma De Mexico, doi:10.20999/nam.2014.b003.

Reznicek, Michael J. Blowing Smoke: Rethinking the War on Drugs Without Prohibition and Rehab. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2012. Print.

Rorabaugh, W J. Prohibition: A Concise History. Oxford University Press, 2017. Print.

November 13, 2023

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