What Do Prohibitionists Really Hope to Accomplish?

Banging heads on bricks

Federal cannabis legalization will happen. It is no longer a matter of “if”, but of “when”. Recently, the House of Representatives advanced the MORE Act (Marijuana Opportunity and Expungement Act), which puts cannabis one step closer to federal decriminalization (more on that here). While it’s unlikely that the MORE Act will advance past the Senate absent a “blue wave” in Georgia’s runoff elections, the House’s passing of the MORE Act signals a major change in perception and attitudes towards legalization of cannabis.

Even if the MORE Act doesn’t immediately pass, something else eventually will. Popular opinion clearly favors it and eventually, politicians will listen to their constituents. It was recently reported that 68% of Americans favor cannabis legalization. Nearly all U.S. states have legalized or decriminalized cannabis in one form or another, and all statewide cannabis ballot measures succeeded in the recent election.

Despite the clear fact that people in the U.S. want cannabis to be legal and want people to stop being thrown in jail for consuming cannabis, it may come as a surprise that there are still groups that actively are working to keep up the old status quo of prohibition (I won’t name specific groups here, but any reader is familiar with a few).

With cannabis legalization being so popular, the continued existence of prohibitionist groups begs the question: what do they really hope to accomplish? Do they think that states will really just walk back entire regulated industries and shutter newly minted agencies that have been created for the sole purpose of supporting the industries? Do they really support cutting off income for the hundreds of thousands of people employed by the industry? (It has been reported that there are more than a quarter of a million people employed in the state-legal cannabis industry in the United States.) Do they even care that people are still being jailed, subject to forfeiture, and having civil liberties violated?
It seems as if such groups would be better off by focusing resources on advocating for things like better youth education, access to treatment for people who need or want it, or other similar things that don’t result in criminal penalties. But simply advocating for a return to prohibition won’t go far. Prohibitionist groups must know that they will lose this battle.