21st Amendment

On this date in 1933, the 21st Amendment was ratified, repealing Prohibition, otherwise known as the stupidest law in American history.

The state that put the 21st Amendment over the top? Utah, of course.

79 comments on this post.
  1. DrDick:

    Yeah, but my native state of Oklahoma (the National Laboratory for Public Stupidity) did not repeal it until 1959 and did not legalize liquor by the drink until 1987. Some traditions are deep seated there.

  2. c u n d gulag:

    My understanding is that Peggy Noonan never does any shows or appearance on this, her favorite holiday.

  3. Erik Loomis:

    What about Althouse?

  4. Happy Repeal Day!:

    [...] Lawyers, Guns, and Money Tweet FILED UNDER: Doug Mataconis, Quick [...]

  5. wengler:

    Yet the other Prohibition continues.

  6. mark f:

    Oh great, now I’m going to have to get drunk on bowling night.

  7. c u n d gulag:

    I don’t know, when’s Carlo Rossi’s birthday?

  8. Substance McGravitas:

    Therefore The Flaming Lips were forced to turn to drugs. Hooray!

  9. Erik Loomis:

    I know. Why can’t I buy laudanum from a pharmacy like in 1897?

  10. MAJeff:

    I happen to live in a PA town that has remained dry since Prohibition. A couple years ago, the town voted to keep the ban on alcohol sales in place.

  11. NonyNony:

    The state that put the 21st Amendment over the top? Utah, of course.

    Why “of course”? The stereotype of Utah is that it would never have ratified it, not that it would have been one of the first 3/4 of the states to ratify it.

  12. John:

    I think that “of course” was an example of “verbal irony.”

  13. NonyNony:

    Ah. Yeah. I see it now. That makes much more sense than the way I read it.

  14. Erik Loomis:

    Pennsylvania has the nation’s most idiotic liquor laws.

    A 6-pack is more criminalized in Pennsylvania than marijuana is in Colorado and Washington.

  15. Hogan:

    A 6-pack is harder to get in Pennsylvania than marijuana is in Pennsylvania. Both, of course, are vital to maintaining our thriving nuisance bar sector.

    Might be time for a little of this action. (We have that photo hanging in our bathroom.)

  16. mark f:

    During my brief bartending career (in Mass) a guy came in one slow night, by himself, and asked if he could get six Bud Lights “to go.” All I could think to say was, “Uh . . . no,” and we stood there looking equally dumbfounded with each other.

    It turned out he was from Pennsylvania and they allow that there.

  17. Leeds man:

    the stupidest law in American history

    It would be interesting to compare its collateral damage to that of current drug laws.

  18. Lee:

    Utah politicians actually wanted Utah to be the vital state in ratifying the 21st Amendment.

  19. UserGoogol:

    Well, being the state which put it over the top means they were the last of the first 3/4, which is a slightly more unsurprising way of saying it.

  20. wjts:

    It depends a little bit on where you are in PA: six packs can be sold by bars and some restaurants. Here in Pittsburgh, some neighborhoods are better about having those amenities than others (Oakland, Squirrel Hill, and Lawrenceville are all not too bad). The real idiocy is that state-run beer distributors (which are distinct from the state-run wine and spirits stores) can only sell by the case.

  21. Erik Loomis:

    My understanding is that the bars that sell 6-packs have to buy them from the state-owned beer distributors, meaning that there is no wholesale price and so the prices for a 6-pack are completely insane.

    Not to mention that the bars, at least in my experience which is mostly rural western PA, are only selling Bud Light and such.

  22. Hogan:

    The beer distributors aren’t state-owned. The state has a monopoly on wholesale, but not retail.

  23. MAJeff:

    I HATE the distributor system. Moved here from ND/MN and got rather used to the idea of a liquor store. I hate that beer must be bought in a case, and that I can’t do one-stop shopping.

  24. MAJeff:

    The bars I’ve been to, in Pgh, do OK with regard to decent beers on tap. I just wish I could get some New Belgium Trippel out here. I miss that beer.

  25. Erik Loomis:

    New Belgium is opening a brewery in North Carolina in order to have national distribution. I think this will be happening next year. I do not look forward to the national rush to drink crappy Fat Tire, America’s most overrated beer (except for Yuengling which is of course terrible), but I do look forward to having access to their other brews.

  26. wjts:

    That may be. Six packs do seem to be more expensive in bars than they are at delis and pizza joints and the like. The prices at the latter are slightly expensive, but not too bad. Though Illinois, which also allows package sales from bars, had the same sort of discrepancy in price between liquor stores and bars.

  27. MAJeff:

    Yeah. Yuengling is worthless. I can do without Fat Tire. Was recently in the Denver airport and had a Trippel. Forgot how nice that beer is. (I can do without Fat Tire as well.)

  28. MAJeff:

    I should also add, as a Minnesotan, the bratwurst and the New Belgium restaurant was terrible. Absolutely terrible.

  29. wjts:

    Have you tried the Sharp Edge in Friendship? They have an extensive selection of undrinkable monk piss. Grub’s not bad either.

  30. MAJeff:

    Still finding my way around. Basically, in the three months I’ve lived here, it’s work and home, work and home, with the occasional trip to the airport (to go visit the BF) or downtown to go to the symphony. Hoping to check out a few new places over break.

    I am never going to understand/know the roads here. The layout of streets in Boston was completely rational compared to this place.

  31. dan:

    For the record, I believe I could name off the top of my head 10 laws that were far more stupid.

  32. Erik Loomis:

    I’m pretty forgiving of airport restaurants. Just being able to get a good beer is nice. Plus I like that it’s in an out of the way corner of the airport, so it’s a bit quieter.

  33. Murc:

    … you guys didn’t have BARS until the late 80s?

    This explains much about how crazy all y’all are.

    No offense.

  34. jon:

    If he could have been bothered to mention this little fact, Romney might have gotten himself elected.

  35. wjts:

    Ooops. You’re right.

  36. jon:

    I mean, naturally, that Bender Romney could have gotten himself elected.

  37. MAJeff:

    This bratwurst was inexcusable. Sliced raw green onions? That’s not how you serve a bratwurst.

    But, again, it was nice to get an old favorite.

  38. cpinva:

    oh no, OK has guns all over the place. bars, on the other hand, took a while longer.

    … you guys didn’t have BARS until the late 80s?

    mr. browning’s weapon was very popular with the criminal element, especially clyde barrow, who personally loved it.

  39. S_noe:

    The Drone War pissed me off enough that I probably would have voted for Bender Romney. (Just kidding!)

  40. cpinva:

    isn’t that more or less the reason for bowling night?

    Oh great, now I’m going to have to get drunk on bowling night.

  41. cpinva:

    the law which gave us national organized crime can never be overrated.

    For the record, I believe I could name off the top of my head 10 laws that were far more stupid.

    and our drug laws (mostly concocted during the same time frame), by most of the same politicians, have been diligently working their way up the stupid ladder though.

  42. Prior:

    Yuengling is neither terrible nor worthless. Their porter is very drinkable and most of their beer is better than the BMC equivalent. Sure you can do much better in Providence and Pittsburgh but not bad for Lock Haven.

  43. cpinva:

    i’m surprised j. edgar didn’t throw a hissy fit, and just insist on keeping alcohol illegal, to help keep growing his little fiefdom. guess the guy wasn’t as forward thinking on the subject, as we have been led to believe.

  44. Hogan:

    How many of them required constitutional amendments? That was an pandemic of stupid.

  45. Erik Loomis:

    If you want to compare it to other beers brewed in Lock Haven, sure I imagine it’s close to the top, along with some dude’s funky homebrew from a starter kit. If you compare it to what you can buy in Lock Haven, well, why would you?

  46. wjts:

    Yuengling’s pretty shitty. Honest to God, I’d rather drink Iron City.

  47. sharculese:

    I was at a wedding last year where one of my friends excitedly told me they had yuengling on tap. Like I was supposed to be impressed that getting drunk was going to be a chore.

  48. sharculese:

    I was at a wedding last year where one of my friends excitedly told me they had yuengling on tap. Like I was supposed to be impressed that getting drunk was going to be a chore.

  49. dan:

    Many are, of course, built straight into the Constitution. Recognizing that a dispute over whether the particular laws are stupid or evil may arise (and preemptively point out that these are not mutually exclusive categories), I will point to the following five for starters: the Fugitive Slave Act, Kansas-Nebraska, the Indian Removal Act of 1830 for the pre-Civil War period; the Spanish-American war declaration and the Gulf of Tonkin resolution for war authorization laws. The Volstead Act doesn’t come close to being as bad as these.

  50. Hogan:

    I’ll say this about Yuengling lager: I think a decent interval between the second glass and the onset of the hangover is not too much to ask.

  51. Bitter Scribe:

    I get depressed whenever I think of Prohibition, because it makes me think I’ll never see marijuana legalized in my lifetime. If the Moral Majority forebears and others who ramrodded Prohibition through could get alcohol–which has been used in almost every civilization in recorded history–banned, purely because they hate the prospect of others using chemicals to feel better, what chance is there for anything else to even get in the door?

  52. Malaclypse:

    And the good dive bars would let you buy a six-pack for last call, to go, and then not require you to actually go.

  53. DrDick:

    We had beer bars (3.2 beer only) and “bottle clubs.” In the latter, you were supposed to bring your own bottle (which was left behind the bar with your name on it) and the club sold you set ups. Of course all the bottle clubs had house bottles “for guests” and you could generally get a drink anywhere unless they though you were the cops or they just did not want to serve you. The cost of the fines and the liquor license was less than liquor licenses in most states.

  54. DrDick:

    There are still dry counties in Texas, Tennesee, and Kentucky (including Monroe County, where the Jack Daniels distillery is).

  55. Erik Loomis:

    I think you are wrong about your pessimism. Just move to Colorado or Washington. Or northern California where is it basically don’t ask don’t tell.

  56. John F:

    Not to mention that the bars, at least in my experience which is mostly rural western PA, are only selling Bud Light and such.

    which is why in my college days on NY’s southern tier half the people in bars on weekends were from Penn, and probably 75% of those buying 6 packs in the 7-11s (hint guys, the supermarkets are cheaper) were from Penn

  57. Johnny Sack:

    All states that did not vote to ratify please secede. Better yet, now I know where we can store our ICBMs and nuclear waste.

  58. sparks:

    Hey, I can’t find calomel or nux vomica, either. Bastards.

  59. Johnny Sack:

    State-run liquor stores in general are per se stupid.

    Also, say what you will about my home state of Florida, at least you can buy beer and wine in a Publix.

  60. Bill Murray:

    you can get calomel, you just have to remove it from an electrode before consumption

  61. Bill Murray:

    has Utah improved? having a 20 member liquor commission with only 1 person that had ever had alcohol creates some stupid laws

  62. marijane:

    A friend of mine calls it Flat Tire.

  63. Erik Loomis:


  64. xana:

    Surprised nobody has mentioned the Ken Burns PBS mini-series “Prohibition”:

    (torrents available)


  65. marijane:

    I’d expand that to all of California. You can get a MMJ recommendation for just about any condition (thanks, SB420!), and you can even get a temporary one if you don’t have documentation of your condition from a regular doctor. And the easiest and cheapest place to procure a CA MMJ recommendation is LA.

  66. xana:

    oops. messed the formating. That’s a link to ImDB, not some torrent site. Sry.

  67. jon:

    Say what you will about Prohibition, but it was a godsend for the poor farmers of Appalachia.

  68. Richard:

    Among the people who ramrodded Prohibition through we’re the women’s movement since alcohol was only drunk by men, women were getting horribly abused by their drunk husbands and had no legal protection. It was a terrible idea but it wasn’t just prudes and moral majority types who worked to get it passed

  69. Richard:

    Excellent series with a lot about the different coalitions that led to the passage of prohibition

  70. A Sobering Post on Alcohol in Speculative Fiction | Matt Evan Probst:

    [...] Via Erik Loomis at Lawyers, Guns & Money, I am reminded that 79 years ago today, the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, repealing the 18th Amendment and with it, the disastrous policy of Prohibition. Naturally, my thoughts turned to the depiction of banned and controlled substances in SF&F. [...]

  71. The Dark Avenger:

    Counties and municipalities also, Dr. I was in TX a few years ago and needed some wine for cooking. We had to go out of town (Quinlan) to another town nearby and get what I needed at a drive-through liquor store(which don’t exist here in CA, AFAIK).

  72. The Dark Avenger:

    And drinking their wages away as well:

    Father, dear father, come home with me now,
    The clock in the steeple strikes one;
    You said you were coming right home from the shop
    As soon as your day’s work was done;
    Our fire has gone out, our house is all dark,
    And mother’s been watching since tea,
    With poor brother Benny so sick in her arms
    And no one to help her but me,
    Come home! come home! come home!
    Please father, dear father, come home.

    Hear the sweet voice of the child,
    Which the night-winds repeat as they roam;
    Oh who could resist this most plaintive of prayers
    “Please father, dear father, come home.”


  73. NonyNony:

    According to the list of states on Wikipedia that voted no or took no action at all, we fought a war with most of them to keep them from seceding in the first place.

  74. simple mind:

    Way back in the Prohibition Years, Cousin Fred from Buffalo wore his great coat with the big pockets across the border to Canada, even in summer. Usually the border cops winked to locals when they came back but this time, not so. “The stash is under the hood” (specially-built brackets to hold a fifth), said Fred, and jumped out of the back seat as his brothers took the wrap.

  75. Njorl:

    You can’t find Bayer’s Children’s Heroin anywhere these days.

  76. Njorl:

    I initially processed this as a comment about George Lucas.

    I need some caffeine.

  77. Njorl:

    On the other hand, alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs available, and it’s legal. Hell, X users can take comfort in that.

    I think a good argument for legalizing less harmful drugs is that we might be able to convince some alcohol abusers to switch to less harmful drugs like marijuana or ecstacy.

  78. Njorl:

    I’m anxiously awaiting Ken Burns’ new documentary on Ken Burns’ documentaries.

  79. The Dark Avenger:

    He didn’t have direct jurisdiction over alcohol after Prohibition:

    When the Volstead Act, which established prohibition in the United States, was repealed in December 1933, the Unit was transferred from the Department of Justice back to the Department of the Treasury where it became the Alcohol Tax Unit (ATU) of the Bureau of Internal Revenue. Special Agent Eliot Ness and several members of The “Untouchables”, who had worked for the Prohibition Bureau while the Volstead Act was still in force, were transferred to the ATU. In 1942, responsibility for enforcing federal firearms laws was given to the ATU.

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