Ken Burns’ Prohibition Provides Lesson for Today’s Marijuana Laws

by  – 34-year veteran police officer who retired as Seattle’s chief of police in 2000

 

Ken Burns’ new documentary on alcohol prohibition, premiering on PBS this week, reportedly begins with a Mark Twain quote: “It is the prohibition that makes anything precious.”

As a retired police officer who worked to enforce today’s prohibition — the “war on drugs” — I think it’s a lesson we would do well to remember.

It was the prohibition of alcohol that made it so valuable to criminals, providing the tax-free dollars that turned neighborhood street gangs into national crime syndicates headed by the likes of Al Capone and Charles (“Lucky”) Luciano.

Prohibition did little to curb liquor consumption, particularly among young people. Moreover, as otherwise law-abiding citizens were suddenly deemed criminals, the resulting hypocrisy significantly undermined respect for authority.

 

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