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Alcohol and Cannabis: Then vs Now

Updated: Aug 22, 2021

“National prohibition of alcohol” (1920-1933) was meant to reduce crime, corruption and social problems in the United States. But alcohol consumption didn’t disappear, it just moved underground, contributing to enriching criminal organizations. In the meanwhile, Cannabis was tolerated by the authorities and gained more popularity.

In 1920, the 18th Amendment on the ban of the production, the transport and the sale of intoxicating liquors marked the beginning of Prohibition in the United States. The Amendment took effect one year after it was ratified. The 18th Amendment was the result of the Temperance movement and Anti-Saloon league which accused alcohol of all the social ills present in society. The 18th Amendment lasted for 13 years and was repealed in 1933 by ratification of the 21st Amendment. The Volstead Act (informal name for the National Prohibition Act) was enacted in 1919 to carry out the intent of the 18th Amendment and officially marked the beginning of the nationwide prohibition. President Franklin D.Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act on March 22nd, 1933, and authorized the sale of alcoholic beverages for the first time since then. But, prohibition failed because at least half of the adult population wanted to carry on consuming alcoholic beverages. In fact, people found illegal ways to drink alcohol, and criminals made money out of it. Alcohol didn’t go away: it just went underground. The growing demand fell to criminal organizations, which used to be weak. By the time Prohibition was repealed, criminal organizations had already settled and switched to a different income, like drugs, gambling and prostitution.

Today, the US is facing a new problem linked to alcohol: underage drinking. It is known worldwide that the drinking age in the US is 21. But, the numbers show that people aged 12 to 20 years consume 11% of all the alcohol consumed in the US, and 90% is consumed in the form of binge drinks. Because of the age limit, youth drink less often than adults, but they binge drink. They drink a lot in a small period of time. Underage drinking is so popular because teenagers look for challenges and experiences. Peer pressure, desire for independence and stress contribute to underage drinking. Many young people confessed that they had access to alcohol in their homes, or even through a family member. During Prohibition, Cannabis gained a lot of popularity. In fact, cannabis clubs, also known as “tea pads”, were allowed by the authorities. It’s only until 1930 that the Federal Bureau of Narcotics made the substance dangerous using propaganda and portraying its users as violent addicts. In 2020, the alcohol market is steady in the US. However, the ongoing war on drugs is similar to the 1920s Prohibition since there is now big economics, especially in southeast Asia’s Golden Triangle (area where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet), based on the illicit drug trade. Furthermore, people’s perception on cannabis changed, and it’s becoming the center of many studies, especially its crop and its application to fiber, food and medicine.

Author: Ghita El Hachmi

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