When we hear the word “Prohibition” we immediately think of the time in our nation’s history when the manufacture, sale or transportation of alcohol was illegal. The forces behind the Temperance Movement were to protect us from the political corruption of the saloons, the political power of the German based brewing industry (note the timeline here, WWI) and also to reduce domestic violence in the home.
Thankfully, there were exclusions in the 1919 law which allowed wine for sacramental purposes. Suddenly everyone found religion and a few vineyards in California survived those dark years by supplying the grapes to religious groups. Another exclusion in the law permitted folks to make their own whisky and wine for personal consumption. So, if you’ve ever had homemade wine that tasted like Uncle Vito made it in his bathtub, he probably did!
Uncle Vito’s bad wine wasn’t the only problem the Prohibition Era caused. While it attempted to protect us from political corruption, it was the perfect time for Organized Crime to have its turn at running things.
Skirting the laws seemed to have taken its toll on folks, that and the Great Depression. By 1933 the nation had had enough, and by December of that year Prohibition had been repealed. Remarkably, it wasn’t until 1966 that all states had repealed their own prohibition laws.
If we think that today we all have free access to the libation of our choice, think again. Each State in the Union has control of its liquor laws.
My current state of residence, Maryland, recently changed its wine shipping laws to allow Marylanders direct access to purchase wine from wineries across the nation. We are, however, prohibited from purchasing more than 1 bottle a month in a neighboring state and driving it home with us. Is this just insane?
The three-tier liquor distribution system, conjured up with the repeal of the prohibition, opened the door for a sanctioned monopoly on liquor distribution, a system where a few have control over the many. So, while we’ve come very far from 1919, there is still more work to be done. Check out your own State’s liquor laws and see what your restrictions are.
I’m very interested in watching Ken Burn’s documentary on prohibition airing on October 2, 2011 on PBS. I’ll watch while sipping a glass of wine shipped direct from California and thanking all those who righted the wrong.