Pubdate: Wed, 27 Jul 2011
Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Copyright: 2011 C.E.G.W./Times-Shamrock
Author: Larry Gabriel


Opposing How Prohibition Divides Families and Hurts

Robin Schneider remembers Christmases as a young child: sitting in a
visitation cell at a federal prison in Indiana, chatting with a father
she saw only two or three times a year. The visit was short. The drive
with her mother and two brothers was long. Her father had been busted
and imprisoned on a marijuana conspiracy charge when she was 3 years

"I had a really tragic childhood because my father was incarcerated on
a marijuana-related charge," say Schneider. "It destroyed my
childhood. It ruined my brother's life and ruined my mother's life.
Taking away a parent who has committed no violent crimes, putting him
in jail, is a disservice for American families, having to spend
Christmases in a visitation cell instead of around a Christmas tree."

The arrest of Schneider's father came in a paramilitary raid where
police busted in wearing masks with guns drawn.

"That's a vision that never leaves your head," says Schneider, 33.
"Being a kid in a raid is very traumatizing. There is no night that I
don't lay in bed and pray to God that I never get raided again. They
found naked pictures of my mother, lined them up, made comments about
her and confiscated them. I think that my dad did use marijuana, but
he certainly wasn't some big time criminal. Why do they kick in the
door and run in like that and point guns at kids? ...

"It affected my self-confidence; I spent years and years in therapy.
One time in my life I was assaulted, and I blame that on the fact that
my father was absent and my mother had to work her butt off to support

By drug war standards, Schneider's life might be considered collateral
damage - the innocent people who get hurt when you go after the guilty
party. But she's fighting back. Last month she exhibited the
self-confidence to co-found Michigan Moms United to End the Drug War
along with activist Charmie Gholson, a mother of three who publishes
the Ann Arbor-based Midwest Cultivator, a publication supporting
medical marijuana issues. But Michigan Moms is not about medical
marijuana. Its focus is ending the drug war. The organization was
kicked off on June 17, the 40th anniversary of the President Richard
Nixon's declaration of the War on Drugs.

"It's really a group of mothers throughout the state of Michigan who,
for one reason or another, have decided that the drug war is a failed
war," says Schneider, a mother of four. "It's ruined hundreds of
thousands of lives and destroys families. We want drugs to be treated
as a public health situation rather than a criminal situation."

Gholson adds, "We hope to play the same role in ending the costly,
family destroying, failed drug war as mothers played in ending the
prohibition of alcohol."

The thing about women helping to end alcohol prohibition is news to
me. I'd heard of the Women's Christian Temperance Union having been in
support of Prohibition and against demon alcohol. But Gholson has done
her homework. The repeal of Prohibition had plenty of organized female
support thanks to Pauline Sabine.

Sabine, who had voted for Prohibition, changed her mind when she saw
the corruption, violent crime, and underground drinking that
Prohibition engendered. She founded the Women's Organization for
National Prohibition Reform in 1929. By the time Prohibition was
repealed in 1933 the WONPR had 1.5 million members.

"As they had at every stage of the Prohibition battle, women played an
extremely important role in its final phase, the overturning of the
18th Amendment," wrote University of Dayton historian David Kyvig in a
paper titled "Women Against Prohibition."

Schneider and Gholson are hoping their efforts, along with a network
of women-against-drug-prohibition organizations across the state and
nation, help create a similar end for drug prohibition. Their main
tactic is to educate people with facts - talk to friends, write
letters and editorials to newspapers, speak to local civic

For instance, Gholson found these Michigan State Police statistics on
the arrest rates for reported crimes in 2008, and published them in
the July Midwest Cultivator. The women are particularly incensed that
the arrest rate for reported rapes, for instance, is 16.24 percent,
while the arrest rate for victimless drug violations is 77.84 percent.

They use these statistics to illustrate their point that the drug war
has skewed our priorities and argue that law enforcement officers
should be going after violent rapists rather than nonviolent drug
users. The group plans to present this kind of evidence to Rotary
Clubs, churches, Chambers of Commerce and other organizations, county
by county across the state.

"Those are the people who get things done in their communities,"
Gholson says.

These moms are about getting things done too. As much as this is about
changing public policy, it's also mothers protecting their families.
Mothers worry about their children and want to protect them.

"Kids by nature are going to want to do something that is forbidden,"
Schneider says. "I hope to God my kids never use drugs, but if they do
experiment, I'm going to be there to try to help them. I don't want to
go get high. I have four kids and taught Sunday school. This is about
keeping families together."

My mom told me not to run with scissors in my hand. But you have to
consider a lot more factors in protecting your kids these days.

While researching women's groups during Prohibition, I found out a few
more interesting facts about what happened during the era. Like
today's stores that sell growing equipment, back then there was a
proliferation of "malt and hop" stores for baking and beverage
purposes. Malt and hops are used in beer making, something you can do
at home.

Medical marijuana supporters might find it interesting that, during
Prohibition, whiskey could be obtained by prescription from medical
doctors. The bottle had clear instructions that the contents were for
medicinal use only. Doctors were known to be pretty free with their
prescription writing, and folks picked up their medicine at drug stores.

After Prohibition was repealed, a number of prominent citizens and
even politicians admitted to using alcohol while it was illegal. It
was even revealed that President Warren Harding, although he had voted
for Prohibition as a senator, had kept the White House well stocked
with bootleg liquor. If marijuana were made legal today, I wonder how
many prominent citizens would come out of the closet.

Another thing I realized was that during my father's formative years,
it was actually legal to smoke marijuana and illegal to drink alcohol.
My dad was born in 1915. Prohibition started in 1920 and lasted until
1933. Marijuana was not definitively illegal nationwide until the
Marihuana Tax Act passed in 1937. Dad used to talk about his father
burying whiskey in the back yard but I never really thought about why
he would do that until now. Also, my father once made a big deal about
being able to drink alcohol openly in front of police. I guess that is
impressive when you can remember a day when you couldn't do that.
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.