Friday, December 05, 2008

Happy Repeal of Prohibition Day!

Seventy-five years ago today, December 5th, 1933, the 21st Amendment was ratified and the national experiment in Prohibition officially came to an end. Interestingly Utah was the final state needed to ratify the amendment, though Mississippi would be the last to do so, in 1966.

This didn't end prohibition for everyone of course. National prohibition was over, but around 2/3 of the states elected to exercise their "local option" to allow voters to choose to remain dry, and for a time around of 1/3 of the population of the U.S. chose to do so, either on a state, county or local level. Even today dozens of dry counties remain, including, famously, Moore County, Tennessee, home of the Jack Daniel's Distillery.

Here in Florida there are five dry counties, Lafayette, Liberty, Madison, Suwannee and Washington County. What's most interesting about the dry county phenomenon is the interaction between state and local governments. In many states it's actually illegal for a city or county to go dry, meaning control of alcohol policy is firmly within the state's hands. For example, Oregon's Liquor Control Act, is "designed to operate uniformly throughout the state," and replaces and supersedes "any and all municipal charter enactments or local ordinances inconsistent with it." Others are simply given the option, for example New York allows local municipalities to exercise the option via a public referendum. In others control is handled almost entirely on a local basis. North Carolina may have the most complicated system, setting up dozens of independent local boards to create and administer alcohol policy within their small jurisdictions.

Well, here's to the diamond aniversary of the 21st Amendment! Now back to studying for my Intellectual Property final...


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