December 5th marked the 80th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition and the ratification of the 18th amendment of the Constitution. The prohibition of alcohol lasted a total of 13 years starting in 1920. During this time it was illegal to sell, produce, import, or transport alcohol anywhere in the United States. Prohibition was an extremely controversial issue that divided the nation and changed how Americans view their rights under the constitution. Looking back, “The Great Experiment” was seen as a huge failure. Crime rates went up, tax revenue went down, and most Americans fell into one of three categories: dry, wet, or hypocrites.
The 21st amendment ended the national prohibition of alcohol, but more importantly, it gave individual states the right of implementing their own prohibition, on their own terms. This means that every state could have its own laws regulating the sales and production of alcohol. Mississippi was the last state to repeal prohibition in 1966. Until as late as 1987 it was illegal in the state of Kansas to sell liqour by the drink on premises, which meant no bar hopping. Today, 8% of America is still dry, there are countless towns and counties across the US where the sale of alcohol is still illegal.
With each state having it’s own alcohol laws, lawmakers are able to tailor the laws to fit the wants of their constituents. Perhaps that is why Wisconsin can sell alcohol at grocery stores and gas stations, while Minnesotan lawmakers choose not to allow this. This is the same reason why Minnesotans have to drive over to Wisconsin to buy beer on Sundays. For a while, the legal drinking age was also different from state to state. In one state the legal age could be 18, while a neighboring state could have set it at 21, it was the right of the state to choose.
Today, many states are reexamining the other “Great Experiment”, the prohibition of Marijuana. 21 states and Washington D.C., have now passed laws legalizing the use of Marijuana in some form. Washington state and Colorado have passed laws to legalize recreational Marijuana for adult use. So where are we going from here? Should the federal government stop regulating marijuana and leave it up to each state? 21 states have already made their own laws despite the federal government’s stance on the issue, is it safe to say that we are heading towards the legalization of marijuana around the rest of the country? At what point should the federal government just give up on enforcement?
- Celebrate the end of Prohibition with a drink today (pbs.org)
- Legalized pot could threaten the alcohol industry (salon.com)
- Activists push to fully legalize pot in Mass. (boston.com)