21st Amendment Repealed Prohibition and Launched Today’s State-Based Alcohol System
ALEXANDRIA, VA – On Monday, December 5, the Center for Alcohol Policy is commemorating the 83rd anniversary of the ratification of the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution. On that date in 1933, Prohibition ended in the United States when 36 states (the requisite three-fourths majority of the then 48 states) ratified the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution, thereby repealing the 18th Amendment which began Prohibition in 1920.
For more than 80 years, the United States and its citizens have benefited from a state-based system of alcohol regulation, established following ratification of the 21st Amendment, which gives each state the primary authority to enact and enforce alcohol laws consistent with the desires and needs of its citizens.
“The repeal of the failed, one-size-fits-all policy of national Prohibition was not the end of the story – it’s where the story of today’s successful system began,” said Mike Lashbrook, executive director for the Center. “The 21st Amendment recognized that alcohol is a unique product that is best controlled by individual states, and it provided a solution that continues to be effective today.”
“In 1933, the country decided to regulate a formerly banned product and wisely chose to put the states in the lead, but at the same time gave them constitutional protections for whatever approach they chose,” Lashbrook continued. “Ideas suggested by Toward Liquor Control helped shape some of those specific policy choices. As the country considers whether to regulate a banned product like marijuana, the lessons from the 21st Amendment are more important than ever.”
Lashbrook added, “The state-based system of alcohol regulation has been extremely effective at supporting a competitive marketplace while at the same time promoting public safety. America does not experience large problems with bootlegging, counterfeit products or a black market, which were common during national Prohibition and have proven deadly in other parts of the world that lack an effective regulatory system for alcohol.”
A report by former Chief Counsel for the United States Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau Robert M. Tobiassen, “The ‘Fake Alcohol’ Situation in the United States: The Impact of Culture, Market Economics, and the Current Regulatory Systems,” explains why there are few incidents of fake alcohol products in the United States. The study describes “strong regulatory systems that police the production, importation, distribution and retail sales of alcohol beverages through independent parties” and the country’s “competitive marketplace that provides alcohol beverages at all price points.”
Visit the Center for Alcohol Policy website to watch a video about the origin of America’s state-based alcohol regulatory system and to learn about the Center’s republication of Toward Liquor Control, written in 1933 to help guide alcohol policy in the states post-Prohibition. The website also features national polling research on Americans attitudes toward alcohol regulation and a guide to the basics of alcohol beverage control for new state alcohol regulators.
The Center for Alcohol Policy is a 501 (c)(3) organization whose mission is to educate policymakers, regulators and the public about alcohol, its uniqueness and regulation. By conducting sound and scientific-based research and implementing initiatives that will maintain the appropriate state-based regulation of alcohol, the Center promotes safe and responsible consumption, fights underage drinking and drunk driving and informs key entities about the effects of alcohol consumption. For more information, visit www.centerforalcoholpolicy.org or follow the Center on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AlcoholPolicy.