Center for Alcohol Policy Celebrates 86th Anniversary of the 21st Amendment

On this day in 1933, the United States ratified the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, laying down the foundation for today’s state-based alcohol regulatory system. 

Today marks the 86th Anniversary of the passage of the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution, which repealed prohibition and set in motion the regulatory system that we have today.

For over 80 years, the United States and its citizens have benefited from a state-based system of alcohol regulation set forth by the 21st Amendment, which gives each state the primary authority to enact and enforce alcohol laws consistent with the desires and needs of its residents.
Also in 1933, John D. Rockefeller Jr. commissioned a study on alcohol regulation to prepare Americans for the return of legal alcohol. The product, Toward Liquor Control, provided guidance for policymakers as they set up regulatory systems for alcohol. Much of that framework still exists today.
In 2011, the Center for Alcohol Policy republished this book in an effort to help legislators, public health advocates, regulators, industry members and the public understand many of the origins of modern alcohol regulation, why so many of these laws still exist today and how they benefit public health and safety. Since its republication, the Center has distributed over 11,600 copies.
The 21st Amendment and state alcohol laws and regulations are often under attack and ridiculed, and 2019 proved no different. Lawsuits challenging the 21st Amendment have found themselves all over the United States, from coast to coast in California and Connecticut, and in between from Mississippi to Missouri, Minnesota and Texas.

And one particular case found itself in the highest court of the Nation. In June of this year, the United States Supreme Court struck Tennessee’s liquor retail residency law.  As Granholm v. Heald did in 2005, the Tennessee case has already prompted several new lawsuits challenging similar laws in other states. The Center for Alcohol Policy filed a brief in support of Tennessee’s alcohol law, and many additional supporting briefs cited Center funded research and its republished book Toward Liquor Control.
Going forward, the Supreme Court’s decision in TWSRA v. Thomas made it clear that defense of the 21st Amendment and state alcohol laws will require strong public health and safety justifications – as well as other legitimate interests – and the Center for Alcohol Policy has positioned itself as the best resource for states needing to make these arguments.
So on this anniversary of the 21st Amendment, the Center for Alcohol Policy stands ready to defend and protect the state’s authority to regulate alcohol within its borders and promote public health and safety through state-based regulation of alcohol, a time-tested system that has proven effective and efficient for 86 years.  


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Center for Alcohol Policy
277 S. Washington Street Suite 500-A Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: (703) 519-3090