Easily the worst Constitutional Amendment ever enacted was the 18th. It began 13 long years of alcohol prohibition in the United States.
It took the government more than a decade to realize the error of their ways and ratify the 21st Amendment to end prohibition on December 5th, 1933 – now known as Repeal Day.
Even more disturbing than the fact that 46 states willingly ratified the 18th Amendment is the fact that it took so long for the country to realize its mistake. Five presidents oversaw the implementation of the Volstead Act, which legislated how prohibition was to be enforced.
The 21st Amendment is a recognition that the law of supply and demand is infallible
The prohibition of alcohol failed for a very simple reason; it attempted to negate the law of supply and demand. If there is a demand, there will be a supply. The government’s attempts to enforce prohibition were doomed to fail from the onset.
Every action taken to restrict the supply of alcohol during prohibition only resulted in a consequent increase in price. None of these actions had an effect on the demand for alcohol.
The 18th Amendment’s ratification, and the Volstead Act’s enforcement, didn’t change the public’s desire for a drink.
Instead, by enacting prohibition, the government turned a safe and legal product that was heavily taxed into a dangerous, illegal product. The sales of alcohol during Prohibition didn’t benefit towns, counties, and states where it was produced and sold. Instead, those profits went into the hands of infamous, and violent gangsters.
Shockingly, while this trend was easily observable within months of the beginning of Prohibition, the federal government doubled down time after time.
Only after the justice system was swamped, the prisons overcrowded, thousands of peace officers killed, and thousands of lives lost to tainted moonshine, was the 21st Amendment ratified.
Eighty-four years after Repeal Day, the U.S. still enforces prohibition on marijuana, and other drugs
Government always seems to learn things the hard way. Prohibition was attempted for more than a decade before it was accepted that the government couldn’t beat the market – when it comes to alcohol.
Unfortunately, while the comparison between alcohol and other drugs is obvious, it isn’t to the government. The federal government has been enforcing the prohibition of marijuana and other illicit drugs for far longer than they enforced Prohibition – and have seen even worse results.
It’s taken 60 years for state governments to begin to overrule the feds and legalize marijuana. But the progress that has been made in the past decade makes it more likely than ever that we will be celebrating the next Repeal Day soon enough.
(Photo of bar patrons celebrating the ratification of the 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th Amendment, on Repeal Day, December 5th, 1933)