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21st Amendment

Updated on February 29, 2020

On December 5, 1933, an amendment which had people all over the country popping corks off of champagne bottles and cracking open beers was passed which repealed the evil, stifling and restrictive Prohibition act of 1919.  Gone in a moment were the negative stigma versus alcohol drinkers, arrests for home brewing of alcohol, and police raids on underground speakeasies and "lounges."  Fourteen years of entertainment oppression ended with the ratifying of the 21st Amendment, giving Americans all over the opportunity to celebrate freedom in their own drunken way.

But what was Prohibition? How did it come about? How was alcohol outlawed through the constitution in the first place?

Crack open a cold one, and learn about Prohibition, alcohol, and the repeal of the 18th amendment - historic times that some of you may have experienced or know plenty of people who did. 

Celebrate Freedom!
Celebrate Freedom!

Prohibition Movement

In 1784, a physician by the name of Dr. Benjamin Rush came up with a report that the "excessive use of alcohol is injurious to physical and phsychological health." Five years later, a group of farmers formed an organization called a "temperance association," and over the next 60 years, these kinds of movements developed a following in religious sectors, to eventually be headed up by the Methodists.  Soon, alcohol consumption was linked to all manner of illicit activity, much the same way marijuana is linked to some of the same in modern times. Prostitution, violence, disorderly conduct, misbehavior in children, sinful behavior and lusciviousness were all blamed on the evils of alcohol.

By the late 1800's, Kansas and many other states enacted laws wherein the sale, manufacture, consumption and distribution of alcohol became illegal. With the founding of the Prohibition Party in 1869, the Woman's Christian Temperence Union in 1873, the Carry Nation Prohibition Group, and even the Anti-Saloon League, gettin' crunk became increasingly unpopular. Add to these groups several denominations of religious groups to pack a fanatical religious punch to Prohibition:

  • Methodists
  • Baptists
  • Presbyterians
  • Disciples
  • Congregationalists
  • Quakers
  • Lutherans

January 16, 1919 found Prohibition ratified as the 18th Amendment, passing along side the Volstead Act. 36 out of the then 48 states ratified this Amendment, and so Prohibition was born as a very real national era. In a time when alcohol was used as a therapy by physicians, medicinal alcohol was also affected by this Amendment. The Volstead Act provided, however, the ability for home-brewing of a limited amount of alcohol from fruits, and areas like Canada and Mexico prescribed to none of the nonsense that Americans had passed. Prohibition was not a particularly sober time period, as with many other attempts to dictate and control the vices we adopt, criminalizing alcohol created a buzz about it, as evidenced by the over 10,000 illegal bars and speakeasies in Chicago alone.

Repeal of Prohibition

As with any oppressive law, the repeal of Prohibition began nearly immediately.  Consumption and manufacture of alcohol flourished throughout the span of the nearly 14 year reign of the amendment.  Passed December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment has two important clauses:  The 18th Amendment is repealed (nulling and voiding said Amendment and ending prohibition.) States have the right to ban the purchase or sale of alcohol - however home brewing of alcohol was still allowed.  Between April 10th and December 5th, 1933, 38 states ratified the 21st Amendment, releasing control of alcohol laws in regard to the sale and transport of said substances into the hands of each state.  Interestingly, 9 states have yet to ratify the 21st Amendment:  

  1. Georgia
  2. Kansas
  3. Louisiana
  4. Mississippi
  5. Nebraska
  6. North Dakota
  7. South Dakota
  8. North Carolina
  9. Oklahoma

 Rarely has the amendment found itself coming into play in the court system, and the total control on a state level regarding alcohol has played out to create entirely "dry" (Prohibitive) states and counties nationwide.  To learn about the alcohol laws in your home state, visit this wikipedia article


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