On December 5, 1933 Utah was the 36th state (reaching the required ¾ mark) to ratify the 21st amendment and end National Prohibition. This made the 18th amendment the only constitutional amendment to be repealed.
The longest state prohibition was Missouri, who ended state prohibition in 1966, almost 35 years after National Prohibition was repealed.
A Literary Digest poll taken in 1922 found 40 percent of respondents favored light wines and beer; the poll also revealed 62 percent of working men favoring more lenient enforcement of national prohibition
The wartime anti-alcohol act had allowed people to drink light beer and wine, and many previous state prohibition laws had banned only hard liquor. Assuming national prohibition would follow these precedents, many beer and wine drinkers had favored passage of the amendment. Even some breweries favored the new amendment since it would eliminate competition from the liquor distillers; therefore, the brewers and many other Americans were shocked at the passage of the Vostead Act, which decreed .05 percent as the maximum alcohol content.
When all the states were voting to repeal the 18th amendment or not, New Hampshire wasted no time on rhetoric; they voted to kill prohibition in just 17 minutes.
Prohibition removed a significant source of tax revenue and greatly increased government spending. It led many drinkers to switch to opium, marijuana, patent medicines, cocaine, and other dangerous substances that they would have been unlikely to encounter in the absence of Prohibition.
In the three months before the 18th Amendment became effective, liquor worth half a million dollars was stolen from Government warehouses. By midsummer of 1920, federal courts in Chicago were overwhelmed with some 600 pending liquor violation trials (Sinclair, 1962: 176-177). Within three years, 30 prohibition agents were killed in service.
Writers of this period point out that the law was circumvented by various means. Although there may have been legitimate, medicinal purposes for whiskey, the practice of obtaining a medical prescription for the illegal substance was abused. It is estimated that doctors earned $40 million in 1928 by writing prescriptions for whiskey.
The grape growers even produced a type of grape jelly suggestively called "Vine-go" which, with the addition of water, could make a strong wine within two months
There were many cases of people going blind or suffering from brain damage after drinking "bathtub gin" made with industrial alcohol or various poisonous chemicals. In one notorious incident involved the patent medicine Jamaica ginger, known by its users as "Jake." It had a very high alcohol content and was known to be consumed by those desiring to circumvent the ban on alcohol. The Treasury Department mandated changes in the formulation to make it undrinkable. Unscrupulous vendors then adulterated their Jake with an industrial plasticizer in an attempt to fool government testing. As a result, tens of thousands of victims suffered paralysis of their feet and hands – usually, this paralysis was permanent.
Some amateur distillers used old automobile radiators to distill liquor, and the subsequent product was dangerously high in lead salts – which usually led to fatal lead poisoning.
Although some view the theory of prohibition as reasonable, it is generally conceded that the realities of manufacture and distribution make it unworkable, for in one form or another, alcohol can be easily produced by farmers, high school chemistry students, and ordinary citizens.
Groups who supported the repeal of prohibition
- Association Against the Prohibition Amendment
- Constitutional Liberty League of Massachusetts (despite the name, this was a nation-wide organization)
- The Crusaders
- Labor's National Committee for Modification of the Volstead Act
- Moderation League of New York (despite the name, this was a nation-wide organization)
- Molly Pitcher Club
- Republican Citizens Committee Against National Prohibition
- United Repeal Council
- Voluntary Committee of Lawyers
- Women's Committee for Repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment
- Women's Moderation Union
During Prohibition, temperance activists hired a scholar to rewrite the Bible by removing all references to alcohol beverage.
It's The Law! Anyone under the age of 21 who takes out household trash containing even a single empty alcohol beverage container can be charged with illegal possession of alcohol in Missouri.
In 1916, seven states adopted anti-liquor laws, bringing the number of states to 19 that prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages. America's entry into World War I made Prohibition seem patriotic since many breweries were owned by German Americans.
Prohibition created a huge consumer market unmet by legitimate means. Organized crime filled that vacuum left by the closure of the legal alcohol industry. Homicides increased in many cities, partly as a result of gang wars, but also because of an increase in drunkenness.
Prohibition devastated the nation's brewing industry. St. Louis had 22 breweries before Prohibition. Only nine reopened after Prohibition ended in 1933. Anheiser-Busch made it through Prohibition by making ice cream, near beer, corn syrup, ginger ale, root beer, yeast, malt extract, refrigerated cabinets, and automobile and truck bodies.
The jobs and tax revenue that a legal liquor industry would generate looked attractive as the country entered the Great Depression. During his presidential campaign in 1932, New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt, who never hid his fondness for martinis, called for Prohibition's repeal.
Although the temperance movement claimed Dr. Benjamin Rush (1745/46-1813) as one of its primary inspirations, he actually promoted moderation rather than prohibition. The temperance movement often had difficulty getting facts right.
Early temperance writers often insisted that because of their high blood alcohol content, "habitual drunkards" could spontaneously combust and burn to death from inside.
A temperance publication wrote of drinking parents who gave birth to small children with a "yen for alcohol so strong that the mere sight of a bottle shaped like a whiskey flask brought them whining for a nip."