Saturday, December 05, 2009

A Reason to Celebrate Today

On December 5, 1933, the State of Utah voted to approve the 21st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. With that vote, the 18th Amendment —ignobly known as Prohibition— was repealed, and it had once again become legal in the United States to manufacture, distribute, and sell alcoholic beverages. That remains so today, 76 years later.

Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

Prohibition had lasted for nearly 14 years.

Utah was the 36th out of 48 states to vote in favor, achieving the constitutionally required majority of 3/4 of the states. Ten states (excluding Alaska and Hawaii, which weren't States at the time) either rejected the Amendment or failed to vote on it.

The 18th amendment is the only amendment to have eradicated constitutional rights rather than granting them. With the adoption of the 21st Amendment, the 18th also had become the only amendment to have been wholly overturned by another.

Beer historian Bob Skilnik notes that
American voters, through state referendums, added the 21st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. It was the first time in our history that a constitutional amendment was passed, not simply by the will of legislators, but instead through popular mandate, i.e., the power of the U.S. citizenry [and the only time].

Although the 21st Amendment lifted national prohibition nationally, it left open the possibility of local prohibition. It gave to the states the right to control the importation of alcohol within each state's own borders. That's why there is such a patchwork of laws dealing with the distribution of alcohol state-by-state, and sometimes county-by-county.

Section 2. The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

Recent rulings of the Supreme Court have challenged the state's exclusive control over distribution, especially in regard to the so-called three-tier system.

Beer goggles

Take a moment today to remember American folly and to thank American sagacity. Then, enjoy your beer (or other preferred fermentable).

Didn't the enactment of the Cullen-Harrison bill on 7 April 1933 legalize beer? Well, yes and no. Go here.

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