Part 2 – Can We Learn from Prohibition?


Criminalization of Marijuana in Texas Fuels Crime Pt. II: From Al Capone to the Zetas, How Prohibition Laws May Be Working Against Their Very Purpose


“There’s a reason these same gangs that deal marijuana aren’t brewing hops or selling moonshine.”

Many have been quick to point out similarities between the evils stemming from alcohol prohibition in the 1920’s and the gang and cartel violence stemming from marijuana prohibition today. In 1920, the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed, banning the sale, transportation and manufacture of alcohol. Even as the amendment passed, it was clear that millions neither wanted nor respected a ban on alcohol. Rather than altering the actions of the people as it was originally intended, prohibition caused alcohol to be an extremely lucrative commodity.

Following Prohibition, a rise in violent crime was quickly seen across the country as gangsters began to create and dominate a vast underground alcohol market. As notorious Prohibition-era gangster Al Capone stated, “All I do is supply a public demand…somebody had to throw some liquor on that thirst. Why not me?”
Today, gang and drug cartel violence fill headlines instead of Prohibition-era gangsters like Lucky Luciano or Al Capone.

Like alcohol prohibition in the last century, marijuana prohibition helps fuel violent crime across the country today. More interestingly, across the country an increasing number of law enforcement and local officials are supporting legalization for two common reasons: (1) prohibition of marijuana fuels violence and skyrockets law enforcement and prison costs to taxpayers, and (2) prohibition of marijuana sends vast sums of money directly into the pockets of criminal organizations instead of to local businesses and into public use as tax revenue.

Minneapolis’ deputy police chief recently summarized the problem, stating “It is illegal to distribute marijuana, so the people distributing marijuana are criminal syndicates that are engaged in very violent activity to protect their turf.”

In addition to the violent crime that stems from marijuana prohibition, there are many economic consequences resulting from current drug legislation as well. Just as prohibition of alcohol in the 1920’s led to a rise of criminal gangsters, Prohibition also had a profound effect on state government tax revenues. Prior to Prohibition, most states heavily relied on the alcohol tax to fund their budgets. During the 13 years that the 18th Amendment banning alcohol was in effect, the federal government lost a total of $11 billion in tax revenue, while spending over $300 million unsuccessfully attempting to enforce Prohibition. Further, the growth of the illegal liquor trade during Prohibition made criminals out of millions of law-abiding Americans. Soon, court rooms were packed, jails overflowed and the backlog of cases only grew. For the first time in U.S. legal history, it became common practice to plea bargain so that the courts could clear hundreds of cases at a time.

Sound familiar? Like the prohibition of alcohol, enforcing the ban on marijuana costs taxpayers $7.7 billion annually–$2.4 billion at the federal level and $5.3 billion at the state and local levels. In comparison, it is estimated that regulating and taxing marijuana in a way similar to alcohol would produce between $10 and $14 billion in tax revenues and saved enforcement expenses annually.

In the end, it is clear that the only real solution to prohibition-fueled gang and cartel violence is to regulate and tax marijuana, just as we ended the rise in criminal violence stemming from alcohol prohibition in the 1920’s. If the millions of Americans who regularly consume marijuana had a legal option to purchase it from a government-sanctioned, taxed and law-abiding seller, they would have no reason to patronize the criminal market.

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Gilbert Garcia has been Passionately Pursuing Justice for over 30 years and founded The Gilbert G. Garcia Law Firm in 2008. The Gilbert G. Garcia Law Firm is a boutique law firm, specializing in Criminal Defense. Gilbert represents adults and juveniles accused of a crime and who have with a felony, misdemeanor or record cleaning case. Conveniently located on the courthouse square to serve Montgomery and Walker Counties. Gilbert became Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1989. The Gilbert G. Garcia Law Firm is located at 220 N. Thompson St., Suite 202, Conroe, TX 77301.

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