This has been reported widely already while I was gone (See Grits, and The Agitator (with not one, but two links to rebuttals), and Hit and Run.)
However, it bears repeating here.
The DEA, at their new JustThinkTwice website, is actually claiming that alcohol prohibition was a success!
A word about prohibition: lots of you hear the argument that alcohol prohibition failed—so why are drugs still illegal? Prohibition did work. Alcohol consumption was reduced by almost 60% and incidents of liver cirrhosis and deaths from this disease dropped dramatically (Scientific American, 1996, by David Musto). Today, alcohol consumption is over three times greater than during the Prohibition years. Alcohol use is legal, except for kids under 21, and it causes major problems, especially in drunk driving accidents.
Yes, the DEA is longing for the days when alcohol was illegal. How moronic!
Interestingly, at one of the other sites, a commenter suggested that we are being unfairly critical of the DEA — that it could be interpreted that they were just claiming the simple fact that there was a reduction in use, not that prohibition in its entirety (and with all its attendant problems) was a success.
But that, of course, is nonsense. You can’t ignore the myriad disasters of prohibition and just claim success in a numbers game of use. Particularly when you’re using that to justify continued prohibition in another area.
Just for the sake of argument, however, let’s take a moment and ignore all the violence, corruption, subsidization of criminal elements, uncontrolled dangerous/poisonous substances, collateral damage, increased exposure to youth, etc., etc.
Even if you ignore all that, the DEA’s argument is specious.
First, because they’re picking and choosing their numbers. If you read the Agitator’s links, you’ll see just how much they’re fudging (read “lying”).
Second, because a numbers game of “use” is useless. When prohibitionists tout the importance of, and supposed reason for, prohibition, they usually talk about the dangers and destruction caused by drugs/drug addicts. But when they use the numbers game, they’re actually talking about all drug use regardless of abuse/danger.
In fact, prohibition tends to only reduce casual, non-problematic use — those who prefer to follow the law (even if they disagree with it) and have only a mild interest in using the particular substance. Those who are likely to abuse drugs (or in the case of the earlier prohibition, alcohol) will tend to do so whether it is legal or illegal.
So, even a strong prohibition-fueled reduction in use has insignificant value in terms of actually helping those who need it, or reducing abuse.
Now, take that insignificant value and add back in all the negatives caused by prohibition and, whether it’s attacking alcohol or drugs, you have an inept and cataclysmic policy that destroys everything it touches.