Monday, March 01, 2010

How US prohibitionists poisoned Americans for their own good

While they project images of motherhood purity, prohibitionists tend to be consumed by a moral panic that can lead them into grave errors when they come to believe "The end justifies the means" no matter what the toll in death and suffering.

Today we see the 6,500 killed in Mexico's War on Drugs in one year. But during alcohol prohibition in the 1920s the US government ordered that industrial alcohol be laced with poison in an attempt to stop people drinking illegal moonshine re-distilled from the industrial product -- reports the author of a book on poison.

It didn't work.

"In 1926, in New York City, 1,200 were sickened by poisonous alcohol; 400 died. The following year, deaths climbed to 700. These numbers were repeated in cities around the country as public-health officials nationwide joined in the angry clamor," reports Deborah Blum.

Up to 10,000 died nationally.

Ms Blum likens this to the ideas of today's hard-core prohibitionists who want to spray crops of cannabis, coca or opium -- in other people's countries -- with herbicide. She mentions rumours that the CIA still laces illicit drugs with poison.

And we don't have to look abroad for examples of this "kill them for their own good" thought pattern. A couple of years ago Don Wedderburn, head of BOCSAR, the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, published an opinion piece supporting drug prohibition titled  something like "We need to inflict harm to prevent harm". No doubt the Don would not approve of poisoning people for their own good, but it's only a matter of degree -- the principle is the same.

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