What Prohibition can teach us about the way we think about drugs today.

I don't think it's hyperbole to suggest that beer is one of mankind's greatest inventions of all time ever in history.

(Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm)


It's hearty (mostly), it's cold (usually), and it just makes you feel really super great (please drink responsibly).

For years now, I've been telling anyone who will listen that beer is so delicious and magical that it deserves its own holiday.

So imagine my surprise when I learned that it actually has one.

April 7 is National Beer Day.

It commemorates the day in 1933 when, after over a decade of Prohibition, everyone was finally able to start drinking again.

(Woo hoo!)

National Beer Day is an unofficial holiday. You won't find it on any government calendar. But people all across America are celebrating.

(In basically the way you'd expect.)

(Seriously, please drink responsibly.)

But contrary to popular belief, National Beer Day isn't just some fake-ish holiday invented for bars to sell a little more booze and blown way out of proportion by the Internet.

(I mean, it is that. But it's not just that).

So buckle up, America. I'm about to lay the True Meaning (tm) of National Beer Day on you.

(Yes, Virginia, there is a coconut cream stout on draft).

Prohibition started in 1920 mostly because alcohol abuse was a serious problem — a nightmare for families and communities all across the country.

People thought banning booze was just the solution America needed.

But banning booze wasn't a great idea. Instead, it was an even bigger nightmare.

Just ask your great-grandparents.

(Your great-grandparents)

Crime skyrocketed. Violent gangs ruled the streets. And corrupt city, state, and federal officials made law and order a joke.

It only took us 13 years to realize this mistake.

When America finally came to its senses in 1933 and was like, "You know what? People are going to drink regardless. So maybe turning the alcohol industry into a massive, violent criminal enterprise isn't such a great idea after all," people breathed a huge sigh of relief.

The point being?

People are going to do what they do. Criminalizing it just drives it underground, wrecks communities, and makes it more dangerous.

Here's where we are now: As of 2013, there were roughly 1.5 million Americans in state and federal prison. About a fifth of them — over 300,000 people — are there for drug offenses.

Many of them for just using drugs, not even selling, growing, or making them.

Even during Prohibition, there was no penalty for drinking booze — only for manufacturing or selling it. But today, you can be thrown in prison for using drugs in the privacy of your own home. On felony charges. Which follow you for the rest of your life.

On March 31, 2015, President Obama commuted the sentences of 22 people, almost all of whom were drug offenders serving decades-long prison terms. Some were even serving life sentences.


This is a step in the right direction. But it's not nearly enough.

Now, before you start getting all like, "Who is this moral degenerate who wants us all to start getting high on demand with reckless abandon and no consequences," I'm not suggesting legalizing drugs. I'm not even suggesting that the most hardened drug dealers and manufacturers shouldn't serve time in prison. Drugs destroy people's lives, and it's not unreasonable to suggest that contributing to that should come with some kind of cost.

What I am suggesting: Let the punishment fit the crime.

It's time to lower penalties for nonviolent drug offenders — and drastically lower them (or eliminate them) for nonviolent drug users.

If we can at least be as sensible about drugs in 2015 as America was about alcohol drinkers after Prohibition, we'd all be much better off.

So on National Beer Day, the most solemn of all holidays, let's all raise a glass to legally indulging in your vices.


In moderation, of course.

Courtesy of FIELDTRIP
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The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected diverse communities due largely in part to social factors such as inadequate access to housing, income, dietary options, education and employment — all of which have been shown to affect people's physical health.

Recognizing that inequity, Harlem-based chef JJ Johnson sought out to help his community maximize its health during the pandemic — one grain at a time.

Johnson manages FIELDTRIP, a health-focused restaurant that strives to bring people together through the celebration of rice, a grain found in cuisines of countless cultures.

"It was very important for me to show the world that places like Harlem want access to more health-conscious foods," Johnson said. "The people who live in Harlem should have the option to eat fresh, locally farmed and delicious food that other communities have access to."

Lack of education and access to those healthy food options is a primary driver of why 31% of adults in Harlem are struggling with obesity — the highest rate of any neighborhood in New York City and 7% higher than the average adult obesity rate across the five boroughs.

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Maybe that's what was on Edmund O'Leary's mind when he tweeted on Friday. Or maybe he had some personal issues or challenges he was dealing with. After all, it's not like people didn't struggle pre-COVID. Now, we just have the added stress of a pandemic on top of our normal mental and emotional upheavals.

Whatever it was, Edmund decided to reach out to Twitter and share what he was feeling.

"I am not ok," he wrote. "Feeling rock bottom. Please take a few seconds to say hello if you see this tweet. Thank you."

O'Leary didn't have a huge Twitter following, but somehow his tweet started getting around quickly. Response after response started flowing in from all over the world, even from some famous folks. Thousands of people seemed to resonate with Edmund's sweet and honest call for help and rallied to send him support and good cheer.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

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So that's neat.

Witzke has also proposed a 10-year total halt on immigration to the U.S., which is absurd on its face, but makes sense when you see what she believes about immigrants. In a tweet this week, Witzke wrote, "Most third-world migrants can not assimilate into civil societies. Prove me wrong."

First, let's talk about how "civil societies" and developing nations are not different things, and to imply that they are is racist, xenophobic, and wrong. Not to mention, it has never been a thing to refer people using terms like "third-world." That's a somewhat outdated term for developing nations, and it was never an adjective to describe people from those nations even when it was in use.

Next, let's see how Twitter thwapped Lauren Witzke straight into the 21st century by proving her wrong in the most delicious way. Not only did people share how they or their relatives and friends have successfully "assimilated," but many showed that they went way, way beyond that.

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For example, have you ever wondered what's really behind the term Black Pride? Is it an uplifting phrase for the Black community or a divisive term? Most people instinctively put the term "White Pride" in a negative context. Is there such a thing as non-racist, racial pride for white people? And while we're at it, what about Asian people, Native Americans, and so on?

Yes, a lot of people raise these questions with bad intent. But if you've ever genuinely wanted an answer, either for yourself or so that you best know how to handle the question when talking to someone with racist views, writer/director Michael McWhorter put together a short, simple and irrefutable video clip explaining why "White Pride" isn't a real thing, why "Black Pride" is and all the little details in between.


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