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This Day in History - 12.5.2011

Tapped Out: Prohibition Comes to an End

By Brandon Dykes

On December 5th 1933, the 21st amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified. This brought an end to the nationwide prohibition of alcohol in the United States. Utah was the deciding vote as the 36th state, which met the requirements of the three-fourths majority approval.

The adverse affects of alcohol are what initially brought on the push to prohibit its sale early in the 19th century. On December 1917, the 18th amendment of the United States Constitution was passed. The 18th amendment prohibits the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of liquors for beverage purposes”. The amendment did not officially become effective until January 29, 1920. It was not until January 29, 1919 that the 18th amendment achieved the necessary three-fourths majority of state ratification.

While the 18th amendment was being put in place, the Volsted Act made it possible to legally enforce prohibition by shutting down illegal distilleries and bootleggers. The Volsted Act was only effective for a short period of time. The flow of liquors was too heavy and had eventually propped up a large criminalized industry. Organized crime figures such as Al Capone built their empire during this time period. Too powerful an industry to stop, it eventually became largely tolerated. The term speakeasy arose from this era, which is a prohibition term meaning “saloon”.

The unpopularity of prohibition, which failed to enforce sobriety and cost billions of dollars, eventually led to the repeal of the 18th amendment with the ratification of the 21st amendment.