Maraschino cherry mogul Arthur Mondella put a pistol to his head and pulled the trigger on February 24. He was 57. New York City’s medical examiners will no doubt rule his death a suicide. But Mondella was really the latest victim of a multi-billion dollar industry: Drug prohibition.
Why did Mondella lock himself in the bathroom at Dell’s Maraschino Cherries — a company his grandfather founded in 1948, and which annually produces more than a billion of the sweet, syrupy little treats that top America’s desserts — ask his sister to take care of his children, and kill himself?
Because police, posing as “environmental inspectors,” discovered (as they suspected) that in addition to producing cherries, Mondella was using the factory to run a marijuana business. After five hours of tearing the place apart, they found a false wall hiding 80 pounds of cannabis and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash.
Mondella ran a second business behind the scenes. As with his cherry business, he provided a desired product to willing customers, leaving both parties better off than before the exchange. Unfortunately for him, that second business ran afoul of a set of evil laws maintained well past their “okay, that didn’t work” dates for the purpose of keeping government bureaucrats and “non-profit” executives employed.
In 2015 alone, one federal bureaucracy — the Office of National Drug Control Policy — will spend more than $25 billion taxpayer dollars hunting down and caging or killing entrepreneurs like Mondella. That’s not counting the expenditures of state and local law enforcement agencies, or the tens of millions raised and spent by “non-profit” propaganda shops like DARE and the Partnership for Drug Free Kids.
Drug prohibition is big business. Not the kind of business Arthur Mondella ran, though. It isn’t the win-win proposition that defines legitimate enterprise. Drug prohibition’s “products” are people jailed, people killed, property seized. Its “transactions” harm everyone except the fat cats who run its various divisions and subsidiaries.
In 1971, a young Vietnam veteran testifying before Congress against the war, John Kerry (now US Secretary of State), wondered “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”
America’s tragic history of marijuana prohibition seems to be slowly drawing to an end as more and more states legalize it for medical and, lately, recreational use. Unfortunately Arthur Mondella probably won’t be its last casualty.
Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.