Heterogeneity of Beer Legalization Policies and Post-Prohibition Alcohol Policies in the US (in 1933 and early 1934)
The American Prohibition (1920-1933)—a nationwide constitutional ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages—is generally viewed as a period with a defined beginning and end. However, when we consider state and local bans, the issue is much more complicated, both at the beginning and the end. Before the Prohibition started, many states already had statutory or constitutional prohibitions in place or had local options whereby municipalities within those states could prohibit alcohol. Likewise, the end of Prohibition was not that clearly defined. Officially the Prohibition ended in December 1933. But 3.2 percent alcohol beer was legalized at the federal level in April 1933. When federal prohibitions on alcohol were relaxed or ended, alcohol regulations were once again left to the states. Twenty states legalized beer immediately after its federal prohibition ended and many others legalized it in the months that followed. In some states, all alcohol became legal after December 1933 while some other states maintained a total ban. In between these extremes were states that restricted alcohol content (for example allowing only beer, but not liquor) or placed severe restrictions on where alcohol could be served and consumed. This research both documents the heterogeneity of state alcohol regulations immediately after the end of federal Prohibition, and explores the drivers of this heterogeneity. The project’s primary methodology is to explore contemporary newspaper articles that documented the debates around these policies.