Why Prohibition is Not the Answer

4 April 2015
Examines the case for drug prohibition against the backdrop of the historical examples of alcohol and cigarette prohibition, arguing that complete prohibition is unlikely to succeed today.

This paper addresses the common question in public policy on how best to restrict the proliferation of addictive substances in society: drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. The author examines the policies ranging from complete prohibition to the legalization of non-addictive drugs. This paper draws on the historical examples of alcohol and cigarette prohibition to argue that the complete prohibition of drugs is not the best answer to the drug problems faced by significant numbers of Americans.
“Many legislators advocate the prohibition of addictive substances as the best way to limit their consumption and the myriad social and economic ills that accompany it. This zero-tolerance ideal was the basis of the noble experiment of alcohol prohibition during the 1920s, the ban on cigarettes in Canada and 15 American states at the beginning of this century, and, perhaps most pertinently, the War on Drugs that we currently find ourselves embroiled in. Drawing primarily on the ideas formally presented by Chester Barnard, this paper will dissect the historical example of alcohol prohibition in the 1920s in order to demonstrate that prohibition is a poor approach towards tackling the consumption and sale of harmfully addictive substances because of the manifold obstacles to implementation that stand in the way of its success.”

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