|Ken Burns' newest PBS documentary, "Prohibition," premieres on October 2|
Drug policy advocates are thrilled that filmmakers of the stature of Burns and Novick have taken on this topic, and hope that the series reminds Americans about the futility of prohibition and its devastating collateral consequences.
"Alcohol prohibition didn't stop people from drinking any more than drug prohibition stops people from using drugs," said Tony Newman, director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance. "But prohibition did lead to Al Capone and shootouts in the streets. It is the same today.
|Drug Policy Alliance|
|Tony Newman, DPA: "Because the plants are illegal and thus unregulated, people are willing to kill each other over the profit that can be made from them"|
"It is not marijuana or coca plants that have caused 50,000 deaths in Mexico over the last five years -- but because the plants are illegal and thus unregulated, people are willing to kill each other over the profit that can be made from them," Newman said.
"Making drugs illegal has created a violent criminal market where cartels battle it out to control territory in much the same way gangsters did during alcohol prohibition," said Neill Franklin, a retired Baltimore narcotics cop and executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).
"The one major difference between the two prohibitions is that we came to grips with the failure of our experiment to ban alcohol after just 13 years, while the 'drug war' that President Nixon declared 40 years ago is still being prosecuted, more harshly and expensively than ever," Franklin said.
"My two sons have struggled with addiction," said Gretchen Burns Bergman, lead organizer of Moms United to End the War on Drugs. "My family has experienced not only the devastation of this life-threatening disease, but also the destructive effects of punitive prohibitionist policies and incarceration.
"Mothers were instrumental in ending alcohol prohibition in the '30s, not because they wanted to encourage alcohol use, but because they wanted to end the gangland violence and loss of lives caused by organized crime, fueled by prohibition," Bergman said. "Moms are needed to join the movement to end the violence, mass incarceration and overdose deaths that have resulted from prohibition and the failed war on drugs."