If you don't know by now, this Thursday is the 80th anniversary since alcohol became legal (again). The ratification of the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment, thus officially ending America's ban on booze.
Al Capone, the violent and ruthless Chicago gangster, became the symbol for all that was wrong with alcohol and, ultimately, all that was wrong with Prohibition. South Florida shares a special connection with this history: Capone retired to South Beach after serving 11 years in prison for tax evasion and lived out the rest of his days there.
This day probably means nothing to the teetotaler or the occasional imbiber, but for all lovers of libations, this is your day to give many thanks.
Alcohol in America is both a blessing and a curse. It has created entire industries of successful beverage makers, beverage experts, inspired literature and you might have never been born had it not been for a few drinks and a little dancing (ask your mom and dad).
At the same time, thousands of people die each year from drunk driving accidents, alcohol poisoning and health effects related to alcohol. Alcoholism has broken families and caused strife for many more.
In many parts of the country, alcohol is still outlawed. People living in dry counties can still be arrested for something as simple as possessing a beer. Despite a craft beer movement in Florida, the state still has three dry counties (Lafayette, Liberty and Washington counties).
But America still has a prohibition problem. It's called the War on Drugs and it has institutionalized a black market of illicit substances from which the most violent criminal gangs have raked in billions of dollars in profits.
Plants like cannabis and peyote and fungus containing psilocybin are classified among the most dangerous narcotics known to man and considered by the U.S. government as having no known medical use, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence showing otherwise.
Pharmaceutical companies are churning out overly-abused, but legal prescription drugs at record tonnage, creating loyal armies of addicts and overdoses by the hundreds of thousands each year. The Food and Drug Administration recently approved Zohydro ER, a new prescription pain-killer dubbed "super vicodin", while at the same time denying the benefits of medical cannabis.
Meanwhile, Mexican police are unearthing mass graves of bodies or finding dissolved human remains in drums of acid. The official death toll in Mexico from the War on Drugs since 2006 surpasses 60,000 people. All of the beheadings that occur there would put even Robespierre to shame.
Why is all of this happening? Because Americans love drugs and because there is no one else who can meet the demand like violent criminal organizations who exploit stiff prohibition laws.
And in America, the impression of a giant boot on the face of civil liberties is growing bigger by the day while police powers become ever more expansive. All in the name of eradicating bad habits.
Don't get me wrong here, it might not be the best idea to legalize all drugs. Parents probably wouldn't like it too much if their kid can score a bag of China white at the local corner store. But we can start by at least legalizing the non-dangerous ones, like cannabis, by amending the Controlled Substances Act, or just doing away with the law all together and coming up with something more reasonable.
The War on Drugs is absurd. It does nothing except destroy society. But it's not like we couldn't have predicted its outcome. All we had to do was look at what happened with Prohibition and Al Capone.
Keep New Times Broward-Palm Beach Free... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering South Florida with no paywalls.