Alcohol and the law often butt heads with one another, be it with taxes, fines, penalties, or just general laws, but on January 16th, 1919, the law treaded on alcohol more than it ever had before. It was on this date that the 18th Amendment was passed, outlawing “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors.” Basically, the 18th Amendment outlawed alcohol 100%.
While December 5th is definitely a day to reflect and celebrate that we have the right to create and enjoy alcohol, it’s also a day to think about how important it was for our country to repeal this terrible law. The years of prohibition were the incubator for organized crime as we know it today. The once good, taxed sources of alcohol were replaced with criminals who were more than ready to take that money illegally.
Prohibition was partially started before the 18th Amendment, however, with laws like the Volstead Act. This was a national law that was poorly enforced. States had their own laws, as well, but still were not easily enforceable. It was until the 16th Amendment that true enforcement began.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt used the repeal of Prohibition as a platform for his presidential campaign in 1932, promising an end to prohibition if he was elected. As promised, when elected, Roosevelt brought forth the 21st Amendment, which was ratified by the final state necessary for passing on December 5th, 1933. Utah was the final state to move the 21st Amendment over the tipping point.
The beer industry suffered greatly due to prohibition. In total, there were over 1,700 breweries in the US before, and by 1934 there were less than 750. Sales didn’t return to pre-prohibition levels until the mid-1970s.
Repeal Day As A Holiday
Repeal Day should be a national holiday that is recognized by all, even those of us that do no drink alcohol. Repeal day celebrates states rights and the need to have states be strong and make laws for themselves. While St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco De Mayo are largely celebrated in the United States, very few people outside of the beer world even know that December 5th is Repeal Day. This is a day, unlike those others listed above, that every person in the United States has the right to celebrate and enjoy. Even if you don’t drink, Repeal Day marks a change in thinking and the end of an oppressive law that never should have been in place.
Today, Repeal Day parties are held around the country in bars, breweries, and homes across the country. If you can, find one and celebrate with your friends the simple fact of being allowed to hold a beer.
Check out this post from Beer Street Journal for some more interesting facts on Repeal Day.
So, enjoy a drink today, even if you’re reading this on a day that isn’t December 5th, and think about what that drink means to your personal freedom, and be thankful that you’re allowed to drink it.