Pubdate: Tue, 06 Feb 2001
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 2001 Houston Chronicle
Contact:  Viewpoints Editor, P.O. Box 4260 Houston, Texas 77210-4260
Fax: (713) 220-3575
Author: Jerry Epstein


The Feb. 4 Metropolitan article on the proliferation of home 
methamphetamine laboratories ("New `meth' labs making hazardous home 
`cooks'; Drug's popularity rising in outlying counties") reminded me how 
"the more things change, the more they remain the same."

In my college days at Rice University, things were different. The 
amphetamine that now gets people thrown in prison was legal then and 
students used it to stay up and study for exams.

Users -- whether students or truck drivers -- could monitor how much they 
were taking and if a few got hooked, as with alcohol, they were treated 
with much less money than we now use to put them in prison. The rest of us 
didn't worry about being arrested or having our lives ruined.

Longer ago, things were much the same. The "meth" labs of today are like 
the stills used to make alcohol during Prohibition.

Amateurs turned out some very dangerous products in dangerous settings and 
hundreds of thousands went blind, became paralyzed or died from bootleg 

"Revenooers" shot citizens and citizens shot "revenooers." By the time the 
country wised up and repealed Prohibition, the police were destroying 10 
times as many stills as when they started and alcohol was still very much 
available (especially to children) and more dangerous than ever.

We still have a significant, although smaller, alcohol problem. We just 
don't have the chaos of alcohol drug lords or the tax expense and 
corruption of the criminal justice system sacrificed on the failed effort 
to control them.

I wonder when history will repeat itself and we'll all sober up long enough 
to begin discussing how best to repeal Prohibition again.

Jerry Epstein, president, Drug Policy Forum of Texas, Houston
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