On this date 80 years ago the United States ratified the 21st Amendment repealing federal alcohol prohibition. It took the federal government only 13 years to realize our “noble experiment” was a disastrous mistake. It didn’t stop people from drinking but it drove the industry into the hands of criminals, while making the liquor supply more dangerous.
For people in the marijuana legalization movement alcohol prohibition shouldn’t just be a perfect example for showing the problems with criminalization, but it should also serve as a model for what we might expect moving forward.
While federal prohibition technically ended on December 5, 1933 we are still living with repercussions from this old policy today. It is a policy that has take decades to unwind.
The 21st Amendment didn’t even make alcohol legal across the country, it simply gave states the power to decide alcohol’s status. Several states chose to keep alcohol illegal past 1933. In fact, it was 1966 when Mississippi finally became the last state to allow alcohol sales within its borders. To this day the sale of alcohol is still banned in roughly 10 percent of the country under local dry laws.
Even after alcohol was re-legalized in every state, absurd restrictions were kept in place for years. For example, it was illegal to brew beer at home under federal laws until 1978. Homebrewing finally became legal under Alabama law only 5 months ago!
I explore these issues at length in my new book After Legalization: Understanding the Future of Marijuana Policy. By looking at the era right after the 21st Amendment I give people a real sense what legal marijuana could be like and an idea of what the big policy questions are that will need to be decided. You can support my book at Kickstarter. With help I hope to have it published at the end of this month.