This day in 1933, America had the good sense to decriminalize booze. The 21st amendment to the Constitution was ratified, nullifying the 18th amendment.
Three weeks after his inauguration, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act, legalizing the sale of beer and wine with the alcohol content of 3.2%. The “3.2% Beer Act,” as it was known, went into effect April 7 (which is now celebrated as National Beer Day) and was the beginning of the end of Prohibition.
The legal reintroduction of alcohol received a hero’s welcome:
At 12:01 a.m. on April 7, 1933, sirens, fire alarms and train whistles shrieked. In Chicago, harried bartenders scrambled to serve crowds that stood 12 deep. At Pabst Brewing Co. in Milwaukee, thousands of onlookers cheered as company employees hoisted barrels and crates onto trucks. About 800 people stood in the rain outside the White House, watching as a man hopped out of his vehicle and unloaded two cases of beer. Secret Service agents accepted the goods, a gift for the chief executive from one of the nation’s brewers. “President Roosevelt,” read a sign on the side of the truck, “the first real beer is yours.”
Prohibition was one of the progressive movement’s biggest successes. One that prompted the rise of organized crime and expansion of the IRS (see Bureau of Prohibition), and eventually stock car racing.
Anytime I think U.S. politics couldn’t possible get any wilder, I remember we voluntarily outlawed booze for over a decade. It could always be worse.
Cheers to you, 21st amendment. Long may you reign.
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