June 22, 2012

Alcohol Prohibition “Worked,” According To DEA Report, Released With Police Union Lobby

DEA director Michele Leonhart grilled in Congress by Congressman Steve Cohen
America’s embrace of alcohol prohibition from 1920-1933 generally ranks among the biggest mistakes in public policy in the 20th century. It was a period that resulted in a profound loss of personal liberty that gave rise to criminal syndicates that often used violence to control the black market of liquor sales.

But if you ask the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), alcohol prohibition was fantastic, and something we should reconsider as a society.

In reaction to the almost comical viral videos this week of Congressmen Jared Polis (D-CO) and Steve Cohen (D-TN) grilling the DEA chief Michele Leonhart over her agency’s marijuana policies, Republic Report took a look at the DEA’s official policy papers on the subject.

We found that the agency released a report along with a police union in 2010 detailing the many reasons why we should celebrate America’s experience with alcohol prohibition. A section devoted to “Popular Myths About Drug Legalization” claims that alcohol prohibition was wildly popular and that the ban on alcohol consumption had nothing to do with the spread of the mob:

The report goes on to mock the idea of marijuana legalization, and claim that there are no parallels between alcohol and weed prohibition.

Why is this story worth highlighting on Republic Report, a blog about money in politics and the corrosive influence of special interest lobbying?

It’s notable that this pro-alcohol prohibition paper was released in conjunction with the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the umbrella organization for the many police unions and police departments across the country. As we’ve investigated in the past, police unions have become dependent on federal drug war grants, many of them targeted towards marijuana eradication, as a vital source of income.

Police unions have become an active force in fighting drives to restore common sense to our drug laws. Marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol, and public support for legalization has reached the tipping point. Unfortunately, police unions, in hopes of keeping the gravy train of federal grants flowing their way, have used their political influence to block efforts to relax marijuana laws. This means donations to politicians, cash to efforts to defeat ballot initiatives like Prop 19 in California, and in this case, a partnership with the DEA to make revisionist history part of the government’s policy position.

It’s almost akin to the EPA releasing a report claiming that mercury is healthy, and releasing those findings in conjunction with a coal lobbying group.