The Center for Alcohol Policy (CAP) national essay contest is intended to foster debate, analysis and examination of state alcohol regulation. The Center is pleased to announce that Timothy Cuffman, an accountability analyst for National Heritage Academies in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is the winner of its Seventh Annual Essay Contest.
The topic of the 2014 contest was: “As states contemplate the legalization of prohibited products, like marijuana, what are some lessons policymakers and regulators can learn from the movement to end alcohol Prohibition in the 1930s?”
“The historic movement that ended alcohol Prohibition and created the successful state-based alcohol regulatory system we have today offers lessons we can draw upon as states now consider legalizing other prohibited products, like marijuana,” said CAP Advisory Council member and former chief of police and Arizona alcohol regulator Jerry Oliver. “The Center’s essay contest encouraged entrants to reflect on this nation’s history of alcohol policies as policymakers and regulators debate the states’ evolving drug policies.”
Read the winning essays:
Cuffman’s winning essay outlines the legal, social and geopolitical differences between national alcohol Prohibition and the present prohibition of cannabis. He explains, “While national alcohol Prohibition in the United States was a function of a constitutional amendment (with the corresponding Volstead Act that governed enforcement), the national prohibition of cannabis is simply a function of federal law (while many states have parallel state regulations). Consequently, the method of repeal is different in each case.”
Cuffman asserts that there are three lessons that present-day policymakers and reformers can derive from the movement to end Prohibition:
- If there is to be lasting and stable cannabis reform, it is necessary to repeal or reform cannabis policy at the national level rather than simply the state level.
- It is necessary to balance regional restriction with federal de-prohibition and restriction.
- Through substance regulation, it is necessary to balance individual freedoms with public interests.
“Now the better part of a century removed from Prohibition, it seems as though American policymakers have yet to adequately account for the lessons of the Twenty-first Amendment and the circumstances surrounding Prohibition’s repeal,” Cuffman concludes. “Even critics of the federal government’s prohibition of cannabis seem to have failed to fully account for the differences between the two contexts, such that we could draw reasoned and incisive conclusions.”
Roni Elias, a student at Florida A&M University College of Law, was awarded second place for his essay, which describes the history of temperance reform; the culmination of the temperance movement with the passage of the 18th Amendment; the benefits versus the problems of Prohibition; the regulation and post-Prohibition changes in the culture of alcohol use; and the lessons of alcohol prohibition for drug prohibition.
“The primary lesson of Prohibition is that it is possible to regulate personal conduct if the regulations focus on controlling how, when, and where that conduct takes place, not whether it takes place,” Elias argues.
Elias concludes, “The regulation of personal conduct also cannot work on a large scale … Prohibition’s attempt at regulation was too ambitious, both in terms of the severity of the restriction and the extensiveness of its application … regulation works when it is narrowly targeted and flexibly adaptable, especially regarding local conditions.”
Daniel Bruggebrew, a student at Berkeley Law, and Corinne Snow, an attorney from New York City, were both awarded third place.
Bruggebrew’s essay focuses on the medicolegal history of alcohol until repeal, the medicolegal history of marijuana through modern day and lessons for policymakers and regulators considering marijuana research for medicalization.
Bruggebrew concludes that, “with the AMA [American Medical Association] suspending judgment pending further research, policymakers and regulators should engage the Association to harness its deep understanding, working alongside the Association to develop medically current and politically accountable marijuana policy.”
Snow’s essay focuses on the relationship between state and federal laws and discusses some of the possible avenues to regulate products like marijuana.
“Today we have come to think that federal law is the primary driver behind our public policies,” Snow notes. “But as the debates and legal changes in the years surrounding the end of Prohibition demonstrates, state law can be far more influential than federal regulation on the use of controlled substances … The debates and resulting regulatory decisions at the end of Prohibition demonstrate the variety of tools and powers that states can use to impact when, where, and how their residents use certain substances.”
The annual contest is open to all persons who are over the age of 18 as of November 2014. Students, academics, practicing attorneys, policymakers and members of the general public are encouraged to submit essays.
For more information, please call (703) 519-3090.