Friday, September 19, 2008

US Congress celebrates 75 years of drug legalisation and regulation

Let's raise a toast with the US Congress, that this week celebrated 75 years of drug legalisation and regulation. Yes indeed, it is a magnificent 75 years since the disaster of alcohol prohibition was ended, alcohol was re-legalised, and as this week's Congressional resolution recognises, our fine and noble 'State lawmakers, regulators, law enforcement officers, the public health community and industry members' established 'a workable, legal, and successful system of alcoholic beverage regulation, distribution, and sale' .



a big HURRAH! for the legal regulation of drugs

It is worth taking a step back and considering the implications of all this for the way we deal with all those other drugs (y'know, the still illegal ones), particularly for all you politicians and Whitehall/Capitol Hill folk generally (*waves*). Deep-breath now. Read the complete resolution below, but change the references to 'alcohol' to a more generic reference to 'drugs'. You will find yourself acknowledging things like the fact that drug prohibition:
"resulted in a dramatic increase in illegal activity, including unsafe black market drugs production, organized crime, and noncompliance with drug laws"
or celebrating how drug regulation has
"demonstrated the longstanding and continuing intent of Congress that States exercise their primary authority to achieve temperance, the creation and maintenance of orderly and stable markets, and the facilitation of the efficient collection of taxes"
and how you continue
"to support policies that allow States to effectively regulate drugs"

Now accepting, as so-called 'scientists' generally do, that alcohol is indeed a drug (one that is every bit as toxic and addictive as most of those that remain prohibited), this re-reading can only highlight the bizarre parallel universe in which illicit drug policy operates relative to legal drugs. But - barring the possibility of a Matrix-style awakening - this is no science-fiction story. These parallel universes are actually superimposed upon one another in the same reality, in the same law books, and by the same politicians and legislators. As this previous blog demonstrates you can do the exactly same thing with the UK's alcohol strategy and the effect is similarly disconcerting. It's almost like key legislators have been systematically spiked with some exotic hallucinogenic drugs for the past three generations and the drug war is all a terrible mistake based on a series of unfortunate out of body experiences.

It defies logic and reason, but then the entire prohibitionist paradigm always has. It is a faith based policy position, founded on a series of unquestioned 'beliefs' that it is both right and effective. (The UK Home Office actually describe how it 'fundamentally believes' the system works just fine thank you - before failing to back this with a single piece of evidence). These fundamental(ist) beliefs naturally do not require an evidence base, so the policy is never subject to meaningful evaluation, and the policy can never evolve in response to, say for example, decades of quite appalling failure, or adapt in response to, say for example, the fact that social and cultural landscape has changed quite a lot since the 1940's. All those annoying pragmatic and ethical principles that underly public health based models of regulation are completely superfluous.

Unless, of course, we are talking about alcohol or tobacco (see Transform's recent submission to the DoH tobacco control consultation). The parallel universe weirdness does not stop here - our very own Government ministers have gone as far as using the failure of alcohol prohibition to argue for appropriate legal regulation of tobacco and gambling. On the very specific basis that 'prohibition doesn't work'.

Short of asking our politicians to lay off the ketamine (it's Class C now after all), it's hard to know how to move forward with this, so profoundly entrenched is the Orwellian logic. It appears that Government are so dazzled by luminous absurdity of it all that their only response is to keep on digging, further and further down their own doomed drug-war k-hole. At least then they can't be accused of being inconsistent.

There is a way out of the hole course, and it has something to do with intellectual honesty, pragmatism, courage, and leadership. Unfortunately there's an election on the horizon - on both sides of the pond - so don't hold your breath.


Whereas throughout American history, alcohol has been consumed by its citizens and regulated by the Government; (Introduced in House)

HCON 415 IH

110th CONGRESS

2d Session

H. CON. RES. 415

Celebrating 75 years of effective State-based alcohol regulation and recognizing State lawmakers, regulators, law enforcement officers, the public health community and industry members for creating a workable, legal, and successful system of alcoholic beverage regulation, distribution, and sale.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

September 16, 2008

Mr. COBLE (for himself and Mr. STUPAK) submitted the following concurrent resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

CONCURRENT RESOLUTION

Celebrating 75 years of effective State-based alcohol regulation and recognizing State lawmakers, regulators, law enforcement officers, the public health community and industry members for creating a workable, legal, and successful system of alcoholic beverage regulation, distribution, and sale.

Whereas throughout American history, alcohol has been consumed by its citizens and regulated by the Government;

Whereas prior to the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, which established Prohibition in the United States, abuses and insufficient regulation resulted in irresponsible overconsumption of alcohol;

Whereas passage of the 18th Amendment, which prohibited `the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors' in the United States, resulted in a dramatic increase in illegal activity, including unsafe black market alcohol production, organized crime, and noncompliance with alcohol laws;

Whereas the platforms of the 2 major political parties in the 1932 presidential campaigns advocated ending national Prohibition by repealing the 18th Amendment;

Whereas on February 20, 1933, the 2nd Session of the 72nd Congress submitted to conventions of the States the question of repealing the 18th Amendment and adding new language to the Constitution that the transportation or importation of alcoholic beverages for delivery or use in any State would have to be carried out in compliance with the laws of the State;

Whereas on December 3, 1933, Utah became the 36th State to approve what became the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, the quickest-ratified amendment and the only ever decided by State conventions, pursuant to article V of the Constitution;

Whereas alcohol is the only product in commerce that has been the subject of 2 constitutional amendments;

Whereas Congress's reenactment of the Webb-Kenyon Act, passage of the Federal Alcohol Administration Act, the 21st Amendment Enforcement Act, annual appropriations to support State enforcement of underage drinking laws, and the STOP Underage Drinking Act demonstrated the longstanding and continuing intent of Congress that States exercise their primary authority to achieve temperance, the creation and maintenance of orderly and stable markets, and the facilitation of the efficient collection of taxes;

Whereas legislatures and alcoholic beverage control agencies in the 50 States have worked diligently to implement the powers granted by the 21st Amendment for 75 years;

Whereas legislatures and alcoholic beverage control agencies in all States created and maintain State-based regulatory systems for alcohol distribution made up of producers and importers, wholesale distributors, and retailers;

Whereas development of a transparent and accountable system of distribution and sales, an orderly market, temperance in consumption and safe practices, the efficient collection of taxes, and other essential policies have been successfully guided by the collective experience and cooperation of government agencies and licensed industry members throughout our geographically and culturally diverse Nation;

Whereas regulated commerce in alcoholic beverages contributes billions of dollars in Federal and State tax revenues and additional billions to the economy annually;

Whereas 2,500 breweries, distilleries, wineries, and import companies, 2,700 wholesale distributor facilities, over 530,000 retail outlets, and numerous agricultural, packaging, and transportation businesses support the employment of millions of Americans;

Whereas the American system of State-based alcohol regulation has resulted in a marketplace with unprecedented choice, variety, and selection for consumers;

Whereas members of the licensed alcoholic beverage industry have been constant partners with Federal and State Governments in balancing the conduct of competitive businesses with the need to control alcohol in order to provide American consumers with a safe and regulated supply of alcoholic beverages; and

Whereas members of the licensed alcoholic beverage industry have created and supported a wide range of national, State, and community programs to address problems associated with alcohol abuse, including drunk driving and underage drinking: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That Congress--

(1) celebrates 75 years of effective State-based alcohol regulation since the passage of the 21st Amendment;

(2) recognizes State lawmakers, regulators, law enforcement officers, the public health community and industry members for creating a workable, legal, and successful system of alcoholic beverage regulation, distribution, and sale; and

(3) continues to support policies that allow States to effectively regulate alcohol


Thanks to Bruce Mirkin

10 comments:

chrisbx515 said...

There is no incentive for governments to end prohibition, quite the opposite. The ‘recovery’ industry is booming, also the state run recovery programs are money spinners and job providers. The defence industry is big business, wars are built on propaganda and to the detriment of a section of the human race based on religion, drugs, ‘free trade’ or whatever the imperialist rulers want to call a particular war at any given time. The world is ran by the USA, the ex imperialists i.e. the UK government do as they are told ‘or else’. Even Transform is part of the game which is all this is. The political class of the USA/UK etc are corrupt; they are the world’s biggest terrorists. Until the human race wakes up and see’s what globalisation of the planet is really about the drug war will exist as well as all the other unjust wars that are being played out.

Steve Rolles said...

how are we part of the game?

chrisbx515 said...

Tranform has to engage with the political process to try and effect change, it is an illusion to think that your influences make real change. The arguments you put forward are beyond any doubt correct in thinking and any sane person can see this. I am a drug worker and so also part of the game but I dont think the revolution required will happen any time soon.

Steve Rolles said...

right to unionise, slavery, civil rights, suffragettes movement, gay rights, apartheid etc. Generally no one thought any of those things would change until just before they changed. 'the truth will out' as someone said once.

Anonymous said...

I have 3 books that say it was on December 5th. Utah became the 36th state to ratify it.... at 3:32pm Mountain Time, according to David E. Kyvig. Also see Kenneth D. Rose, and Edward Behr.

Bruce Mirken said...

Utah was indeed the 36th state to ratify the amendment that ended Prohibition in the U.S. This is interesting because, then as now, Utah was predominantly Mormon, and Mormons don't drink. So the Utah legislature didn't vote to end Prohibition because they wanted to drink, they voted to end it because it was a ghastly failure that promoted crime and violence, enriched gangsters, and made communities less safe rather than more safe. Hmmm... does that situations sound familiar?

chrisbx515 said...

right to unionise - thatcher soon got rid of any real power they had, slavery still here today just in different forms, civil rights, eroded every day on the back of the war on terror, suffragettes movement, do women get equal pay and total equality in the workplace?, gay rights, apartheid, may not exist but inequality is still at unbelievable proportions. Fundamentally nothing has changed. Even the right to protest has been dumbed down , cant go here cant go there, need permission to this that and the other. The whole point is to cause disruption peacefully not march neatly but loudly and co-operate with the police.
I am all for the work Transform and the work you guys do but just do not believe in the fake globalized democracy pushed by imperialists who are in power.

Steve Rolles said...

true up to a point chris, but things have definitely improved on all those fronts. and they will with drug policy too, even if only in small steps.

Richard Jones said...

If you could attach comments to US Congressional resolutions, I wonder what those comments would say?

Steve Rolles said...

In the UK you can (on the unofficial parliamentary record site anyway. Visit the peerless:

www.Theyworkforyou.com