January 16, 1919, the United States of America ratified the 18th Amendment making it illegal to manufacture, sell, transport, import or export alcohol (except for religious or medicinal uses.)
The amendment, popularly known as “Prohibition,” outlawed alcohol in the United States making America a “dry” country. Thirteen years later on December 5th, 1933, most of the country agreed Prohibition was a complete policy debacle and overwhelmingly ratified the 21st Amendment repealing the 18th – to this day the only Constitutional amendment repealing another amendment.
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“While the Government originally envisioned Prohibition to be a ‘noble experiment in social engineering,’ the effort completely failed to deliver its promised benefits and actually made things much worse,” according to DISCUS – Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, noting that Prohibition increased crime and exacerbated alcohol abuse.
Eighty plus years after the repeal of Prohibition, states across the country have greatly modernized their alcohol markets but remnants of the law still hamper spirits manufacture, sales and consumption across the U.S. today.
States are increasingly repealing outdated laws as a means to increase revenue without raising taxes. The last decade has seen an increase in spirits market share among beverage alcohol products, greater consumer interest in premium spirits products, and record export growth.
Prohibition’s Lingering Legacies
- Dry Counties – There are still hundreds of dry counties across the United States today that partially or completely restrict alcohol consumption – mostly across the South and West.
- Spirits Sampling Restrictions – Some states still ban all forms of spirits sampling.
- Neo-Prohibitionists – Neo-prohibitionists continue to promote misguided “population-based controls” as a means of restricting alcohol sales. The most popular examples of these population-based controls include tax increases which lead to higher prices; bans on advertising and marketing; and excessive restrictions on market access.
Take some time to look at this Prohobition Yesterday and Today Infographic to learn more about this failed experiment. You can click the image below to see the full size infographic.
Note: A few of the state laws have been updated since this was originally published.