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It’s hard to imagine, in 2016, cops arresting someone for drinking a beer. Most people today would think of this as extreme and ridiculous. But during the thirteen years of Prohibition in the 1920s and ’30s, this is what police were required by law to do.

How many law enforcement and federal officials during that time do you think consumed alcohol? How many times did they look the other way because beer and cocktails were simply part of the culture, legal or not?

Related: Drug violence is an argument for ending prohibition, not against it


How many whose job it was to enforce the law thought it was a profoundly stupid law?

Vocativ reports, “Support for marijuana legalization might be at a national all-time high, but not a single minute passes in the U.S. without a cop pinching someone for weed.”

“Crime data released by the FBI shows that police made 643,000 marijuana-related arrests in 2015, the lowest it’s been in 20 years. That figure still translates to a pot bust every 49 seconds,” Vocativ notes.

“And nearly nine out of ten of these arrests were for possession as opposed to sale or cultivation, the data shows.”

This is insane.

We have reached a point in the United States where some states have not only legalized marijuana in both medicinal and recreational forms, but a majority of Americans believe the drug should be legal nationwide. The younger you skew, the more open attitudes become about pot and marijuana use in general. Millennials are now the largest generation in the country.

In other words, the day when it will be as acceptable to smoke a joint as it is to enjoy a Budweiser is rapidly approaching, and is probably already here for an increasing number of Americans.

I have known cops who use marijuana. I know police officers who believe pot should be legal, and some who are even angry or embarrassed that they have to harass otherwise law-abiding citizens for partaking in something that isn’t even a crime in other places. How many cops probably believe the current law is an insult to their profession when they could be concentrating on more important things?

But many police departments have also long relied on our disastrous drug war for revenue. That’s not a good reason for continuing marijuana prohibition. It’s morally reprehensible.

“Protect and serve” should never become stop and fleece.

Related: Why are some beer makers trying to keep marijuana illegal?

There are probably countless police officers today who simply look the other way when it comes to pot use. Good for them. Jaywalking and driving five miles over the speed limit are technically illegal too, but most of us would be outraged to be issued a ticket for either. Marijuana use is, or should be, in the same category.

The normalization of marijuana in the United States is happening, and quicker than many of us might have expected. Our laws nationwide should eventually reflect this, and probably will. But until they do change, it’s shameful that we continue to ask police to harass citizens for using a drug that most Americans consider less harmful than alcohol. In twenty years, the notion that people were at one time arrested for pot could seem as extreme and ridiculous as alcohol bans were nearly a century ago.

Yes, marijuana prohibition is still the law in most of the United States—and like the first Prohibition, it’s maddeningly stupid.

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