Repeal Day

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Repeal Day is celebrated on December 5th of each year.  Repeal day commemorates the anniversary of the day the United States repealed the Eighteenth Amendment and gave Americans the constitutional ability to consume alcohol.

In 1919, the requisite number of legislatures of the States ratified The 18th Amendment to the Federal Constitution, enabling national Prohibition within one year of ratification. Many women, notably the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, had been pivotal in bringing about national Prohibition in the United States of America, believing it would protect families, women and children from the effects of abuse of alcohol.

The proponents of Prohibition had believed that banning alcoholic beverages would reduce or even eliminate many social problems, particularly drunkenness, crime, mental illness, and poverty, and would eventually lead to reductions in taxes. However, during Prohibition, people continued to produce and drink alcohol, and bootlegging helped foster a massive industry completely under the control of organized crime. Prohibitionists argued that Prohibition would be more effective if enforcement were increased. However, increased efforts to enforce Prohibition simply resulted in the government spending more money, rather than less. Journalist H.L. Mencken asserted in 1925 that respect for law diminished rather than increased during Prohibition, and drunkenness, crime, insanity, and resentment towards the federal government had all increased.

The number of repeal organizations and demand for repeal both increased. In 1932, the Democratic Party’s platform included a plank for the repeal of Prohibition, and Democrat Franklin Roosevelt ran for President of the United States promising repeal of federal laws of Prohibition.

The Cullen-Harrison Act, signed by President Franklin Roosevelt on March 22, 1933, authorized the sale of 3.2% beer (thought to be too low an alcohol concentration to be intoxicating) and wine, with the first legal beer sales since the beginning of Prohibition on April 7, 1933. In 1933, the state conventions ratified the Twenty-first Amendment, which repealed Amendment XVIII. Federal Prohibitionary laws were then repealed. The amendment was fully ratified on December 5, 1933. Some States, however, continued Prohibition within their jurisdictions. Almost two-thirds of all states adopted some form of local option which enabled residents in political subdivisions to vote for or against local Prohibition; therefore, for a time, 38% of Americans lived in areas with Prohibition. By 1966, however, all states had fully repealed their state-level Prohibition laws, with Mississippi the last state to do so.