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|Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy|
|The Wickersham Commission Report on Alcohol Prohibition - 1930|
STATEMENT BY WILLIAM I. GRUBB
I am one of the members of the Commission, who believe that prohibition under the Eighteenth Amendment is entitled to a further trial before a revision or repeal of the Amendment is recommended. I join in the findings of fact and all the ultimate conclusions of the general report of the Commission (except that recommending that the Amendment be revised immediately, without awaiting a further trail), but not in all of the general observations.
My reasons for thinking that prohibition under the Amendment is entitled to a further trial are twofold. The first is that it is an experiment, which has not been completed, and has not yet had a fair trial, and the second is that no satisfactory substitute for it has been presented or shown to exist.
I agree with the conclusion of the report that enforcement and observance of the law have never been and are not now adequate or satisfactory, and do not warrant its continuance, unless a change is probable within a reasonable time. I agree also in the finding of the report that there has been an improvement in the efficiency and character of enforcement methods, since the enforcement unit was placed under Civil Service, and since the transfer of the unit to the Department of Justice. Improvement in the machinery alone will not accomplish satisfactory enforcement. It will require also a favorable change in the attitude of the public towards the law. Voluntary observance of a law of this nature is essential. So long as the majority of the people do not observe it, the law is powerless to enforce it. I believe that the use of only clean and efficient methods of enforcement, together with adequate appropriations to accomplish efficiency, may change the present hostile attitude of the public to one of voluntary observance and approval, that will within a reasonable time for such an end, bring about a proper enforcement of prohibition. So long as improvement continues, the experiment cannot be considered completed, and should not be abandoned. If, and when, improvement ceases or when it is demonstrated that the improvement, though continuing, will not result in a changed public opinion, favorable to the law, so that enforcement can be made reasonably effective, the experiment should be abandoned. The time required for the completion of the experiment cannot be determined in advance, but will work itself out during the progress of the trial. The result of a further trial is a matter of prophecy, not of fact, as to which there can now be no certain ascertainment. In view of the present improvement, and the possibility of its resulting in successful observance and enforcement of the law in the future, I think the experiment should be accorded a further trial.
This conclusion is reinforced because of the fact that no satisfactory substitute for prohibition under the Amendment has yet been presented or shown to exist. Repeal of the Amendment would remit the control of the liquor business to the States, except so far as it was susceptible of Federal control through the powers of interstate commerce and taxation. Prohibition is conceded to have produced two great benefits, the abolition of the open saloon and the elimination of the liquor influence from politics. Remission to the States would assure the return of the open saloon at least in some of the States, and the return of the liquor interest to the politics of all of them. Revision of the Amendment by vesting in Congress the exclusive control of the liquor business would make certain the return of the liquor influence in national politics, and possibly the return of the open saloon in all the States. The authority of Congress under its taxing and commerce powers would be inadequate to protect a State desiring prohibition, in securing it, when it had neighbors who permitted the manufacture and distribution of intoxicating liquors. Vesting in Congress the power to regulate or prohibit without recommending a specific plan of regulation or control, furnishes no solution of the liquor question, and would leave it to constant agitation in Congress and the Country, until the happening of the remote contingency of a solution satisfactory to all parties. As to the systems of other countries, they may be classified into prohibition, ownership and operation by governments or governmental agencies, private operation under regulation and taxation, or without restrictions. The finding of the Commission is adverse to operation by government agencies. In this finding, I concur. Private operation without restrictions is impossible. This leaves for consideration, regulated private operation and prohibition. Private operation, under a high license, proper closing regulations, forbidding the sale to minors and incompetents, and drinking on the premises where sold, seems the only practicable system, excluding prohibition. This was the system that preceded prohibition. The difficulty experienced with it then was that the regulations were impossible of enforcement, and the liquor business came to such a disregard of them, as led to prohibition. An abandonment of prohibition and a return to regulated private operation would be a step backward in the evolution of the liquor question, and one that should not be taken until all hope of a reasonable enforcement and observance of prohibition under the Amendment and the enforcement laws had disappeared.
Believing that the time has not yet come, I think there should be a further trial, and that there is a possibility under improved enforcing methods and personnel, and increased and adequate appropriations for equipment and additional personnel, together with a resulting sympathetic feeling of the public towards the law, of reasonable observance and enforcement being accomplished within a reasonable period. If proper enforcement and observance are not then had, or if a better and more satisfactory system is shown to exist, it will be time enough to abandon prohibition, and to adopt the better substitute.
W. I. GRUBB. Washington, D.C., January 7, 1931.
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