While in America’s hyper binary political system, third-party alternatives come and go as fast as Mel Gibson’s mood swings. The one exception to this rule is the US Prohibition Party, which has been operational since 1869. Once a force in America’s body politic in the early 20th century, it has since been relegated to a political heirloom – a novelty from the US’s teetotaling past.
As the movement to end the prohibition on cannabis escalates, and the war on drugs becoming increasingly unpopular, prohibition has became an increasingly bad word. I gave James Hedges, a man who holds the distinction as the only person to have held office with the Prohibition Party since 1959 – as a Pennsylvania tax assessor in 2002, and the party’s media liaison – a call to see what he thought of the hullabaloo.
VICE: So first off, can you tell me a little about the Prohibition’s Party's view on alcohol?
James Hedges: It would like to see no alcohol sold anywhere for any purpose.
Yes, it would be made an illegal drug. There could be exceptions, for some sacramental use or medical prescriptions, but as a recreational beverage we would like to see it completely banned.
Who is using alcohol medicinally?
Well, it is used as a solvent in some liquid medicines. For example, back during national prohibition there was an exception made that doctors could prescribe it for use, and a lot of the salons become drug stores to take advantage of that. That would need to be handled differently next time.
So similar to medical marijuana today. Are you in favour in that?
Well, being military, I am very reluctant to argue with a doctor. If they say, "Here, take this," the only acceptable response is, "Yes, sir." So I would like to see medical marijuana available on prescription.
Cool. But now that we have medicinal marijuana in certain states, don’t you see the same thing happening that you described with alcohol – where medical marijuana is being purchased to use recreationally?
That is a possibility. I think abuse of the system is a separate issue.
We have two states – Washington and Colorado – that have legalised it for recreational use. What’s your take on that?
I think it’s a mistake, but not a serious mistake. I don’t see it as a big deal.
So you think marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol?
I don’t see that there is even much of a comparison. Alcohol has vastly more social cost than marijuana, even if everybody used it.
So would you say you are in favour of decriminalising marijuana, i.e, avoiding jail time for those using or having it on their person?
It's crazy to lock up the users. The emphasis should be on the producers and the traffickers.
Would you say you are against the war on drugs? Most people see it as a failure.
I would hate to say it’s a failure, because it implies that I am in favour of the legalisation of all drugs. I think it needs to be refocused and operated effectively. I would say we need to end the war on users. I mean, if you had an auto accident and you were on drugs, that’s different. But if your car is stopped for something else and there happens to be something in the backseat, who cares?
Wouldn’t a prohibition of alcohol just be an escalation of the war on drugs?
No. Even in the 1920s, the focus was on trafficking, not users. The war on drugs has largely focused on users. This is why America has 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. They say America is the "land of the free". Ho-ho, it’s not.
The focus on users is an alien concept to prohibitionists. I mean, look, the enforcement of use of both alcohol or marijuana is impossible. Anyone with some knowledge of cooking can make alcohol, and anyone with a green thumb can produce marijuana. That’s why the enforcement should be on large-scale trafficking and interstate commerce.
Can we expect a presidential campaign in 2016?
There will be a bigger and stronger campaign in the coming elections than there has been for the last three presidential cycles, I can guarantee you that.