Bill sponsor claims ‘prohibition doesn’t work’ – although history shows otherwise
By Guy Page
H.72, a laundry list of illegal drug decriminalization and penalty reduction measures, will get a lengthy look in the House Human Services Committee this week.
Sponsored by Rep. Taylor Small (D/P – Winooski) and 29 other Democrats, Progressives and independents, H.72 would:
- Eliminate criminal and civil penalties for operation of a ‘safer drug’ program, including needle exchange and injection sites;
- Repeal possession of 60 grams or more of cocaine as a criminal offense. (Possession of 150 grams or more is presumed to be for trafficking purposes and would remain a felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison or a $1 million fine.)
- Repeal the sunset of the decriminalization of a small amount of buprenorphine;
- Establish the Drug Use Standards Advisory Board within the Vermont Sentencing Commission for determining benchmarks for personal use dosage and personal use supply for regulated drug
- Require the Sentencing Commission to use benchmark recommendations from the
Drug Use Standards Advisory Board to make recommendations regarding adjustments in the amounts for possession, dispensing, and sale of regulated 5 drugs.
Human Services is scheduled to take testimony on and discuss H.72 today, Wednesday and Thursday.
A similar bill was introduced March 2 in the Senate. S.119 is sponsored by Sen. Tanya Vyhovsky (Chittenden – D/P). Under S.119, people arrested for possession of hard drugs would be given a civil fine of $50 – analogous to a speeding ticket. Even this fine would be waived if the recipient agreed to undergo drug treatment.
At an April 6 press conference, Vyhovsky justified drug legalization by claiming the early 20th century federal Prohibition laws making most alcohol consumption illegal, “did not lead to fewer people drinking.”
“We know from our history that prohibition doesn’t work,” Vyhovsky said (as reported by VTDigger). “In 1920, when the United States made alcohol illegal and began a 13-year-long failed experiment in criminalizing a substance, it did not lead to fewer people drinking. It led to people dying from methanol contaminated bootleg alcohol and gun violence in our streets as bootleggers and gangs capitalized on an illicit market. So we made a change, and we repealed that law.”
Actually, history shows that Prohibition did work – at least in reducing Americans’ consumption of alcohol.
University of Florida professor and addiction history expert David Courtwright told Vox Magazine that Prohibition – whatever else its faults – did reduce alcohol consumption.
As for the oft-repeated claim that Prohibition didn’t reduce drinking: “No well-informed historian has believed that for 50 years,” Courtwright said.
His book, the Age of Addiction cites these figures: “Per capita consumption initially fell to 30 percent of pre-Prohibition levels, before gradually increasing to 60 or 70 percent by 1933.”