When Prohibition Ended, Did Crime Increase? Alcoholism?
February 22, 2004 5:10 AM   Subscribe

when Prohibition ended in the USA, did crime (both organised crime and general crime) increase or decrease? Did levels of alcholism increase? Did alcohol become cheaper? Are there lessons to be learned about the potential effects of legalising drugs? [MI]

I ask because I have to present the case that legalising drugs is the lesser of two evils to a panel assessing me for a job, and wish to cite precedents about prohibition to bolster my case, but in the UK we don't have a cultural memory of the effects of prohibition. Any U.S. MeFites help me?
posted by Pericles to Grab Bag (5 answers total)
Here is a huge frickin' library of articles on drug policy. Specifically, I think you'll find this article entitled "From Prohibition to Regulation" very useful.

Please, don't use [MI].
posted by monju_bosatsu at 10:24 AM on February 22, 2004

Gah - why didn't I find that?!? Thanks!
posted by Pericles at 10:28 AM on February 22, 2004

Also look into bathtub gin if you can. Basically people made gin, in their bathtub. Very dangerous on many levels but once prohibition stopped the bathtub gin practice stopped too. Also, beer was far more unusual then harder alcohol. Anagolous to if drugs were legalized (or at least pot), you'd assume peopel would stick to pot and not go to harder stuff. Right now if you buy pot from a dealer he will most likely also try to push cocaine, etc. If you bought pot at a liquor store hopefull the clerk won't push cocaine.
posted by geoff. at 11:42 AM on February 22, 2004

The conventional wisdom says that Prohibition was a heyday for the mob, allowing it (even forcing it) to grow from immigrant neighborhood gangs into multi-city syndicates, in the process of which there was a lot of intra-mob violence. The end of Prohibition was largely a recognition that this policy had failed, and the mob violence was the most recognizable public face of this policy failure. With repeal, the CW says that the mob used its cash booty to move into other industries such as gambling and hard drugs, leading directly (say) to Las Vegas and so forth. It's not hard to find sources repeating the conventional wisdom, if you want them, but numerically proving these sub-cases is going to be a little more difficult.
posted by dhartung at 9:33 PM on February 22, 2004

I can give you one really good, well-researched, excellently written example of how legalizing drugs makes not only the drugs safer, but also the users of the drugs. In this case the organized crime is the distribution of toxic liquor. The distributors were responsible for paralyzing tens of thousands of people and only one of the two ever did any time: two years in prison.

Look up "Jake Leg" by Dan Baum in the Sept. 15, 2003 issue of The New Yorker.

I found something else while googling for "Jake Leg". A first person account of a bootlegger's experience that ran in the 1926-09-25 issue of the New Yorker. I haven't read it, but it might be useful.
posted by raaka at 3:53 AM on February 23, 2004

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