3 Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution

Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution

The Twenty-first Amendment (Amendment XXI) to the United States Constitution repealed the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which had mandated nationwide Prohibition.


cquote|Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

Section 2. The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use there in of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.


The Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution had ushered in a period of time known as "Prohibition", during which the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages was illegal. Passage of the Eighteenth Amendment, in 1919, was the crowning achievement of the temperance movement, but it soon proved highly unpopular. As more and more Americans opposed the Eighteenth Amendment, movement grew for repeal. However, repeal was complicated by grassroots politics. Although the US Constitution provides two methods for ratifying constitutional amendments, only one method had been used until then; that was for ratification by the state legislatures of three-fourths of the states. However, the wisdom of the day was that the state legislators of many states were either beholden to or simply fearful of the temperance lobby. For that reason, when Congress formally proposed the repeal of Prohibition on February 20, 1933, (with the requisite two-thirds having voted in favor in each house; 63 to 21 in the Senate and 289 to 121 in the House) they chose the other ratification method: state conventions. That is the only amendment ratified that way.

The Twenty-first Amendment is also one of only two provisions of the Constitution to prohibit private conduct; the other is the Thirteenth Amendment. As Laurence Tribe points out: "there are two ways, and only two ways, in which an ordinary private citizen ... can violate the United States Constitution. One is to enslave someone, a suitably hellish act. The other is to bring a bottle of beer, wine, or bourbon into a State in violation of its beverage control laws—an act that might have been thought juvenile, and perhaps even lawless, but unconstitutional?" [ Laurence H. Tribe, How to Violate the Constitution Without Really Trying: Lessons from the Repeal of Prohibition to the Balanced Budget Amendment, 12 Const. Comm. 217, 219 (1995). ]

Proposal and ratification

The Twenty-first Amendment was fully ratified on December 5, 1933. It is the only Amendment thus far ratified by state conventions, specially selected for the purpose, whereas all other amendments have been ratified by state legislatures. It is also the only amendment that was passed for the explicit and nearly sole purpose of repealing an "earlier" amendment to the Constitution. The 21st amendment ended national prohibition in early December.


State and local control

The second section bans the importation of alcohol in violation of state or territorial law.This has been interpreted to give states essentially absolute control over alcoholic beverages, and many U.S. states still remained "dry" (with state prohibition of alcohol) long after its ratification. (Mississippi was the last, remaining dry until 1966;Fact|date=November 2007 Kansas continued to prohibit public bars until 1987).Fact|date=November 2007 Many states now delegate the authority over alcohol granted to them by this Amendment to their municipalities or counties (or both), which has led to many lawsuits over First Amendment rights when local governments have tried to revoke liquor licenses.

Court rulings

Court rulings involving this amendment have been rare.

In "Craig v. Boren" (1976), the Supreme Court found that analysis of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment had not been changed by the passage of the Twenty first Amendment.

In "South Dakota v. Dole" (1987), the Supreme Court upheld the withholding of some federal highway funds to South Dakota because they allowed 3.2% beer to be sold to some adults under the age of 21. In a 7–2 decision, Chief Justice Rehnquist held that the offer of benefits is not coercion that inappropriately invades state sovereignty. Justice O'Connor dissented, arguing that the relationship between the highway funds and the drinking age regulation was too attenuated.

In May 2005, the Supreme Court decided in "Granholm v. Heald" (2005), by 5–4, that the Twenty-first Amendment does not overrule the Dormant Commerce Clause (in the original Constitution) with respect to alcohol sales, and that therefore states must treat in-state and out-of-state wineries equally.

The Congress proposed the Twenty-first Amendment on February 20, 1933. [cite web| url = http://www.usconstitution.net/constamrat.html| title = Ratification of Constitutional Amendments| accessmonthday = Feb 24| accessyear = 2007| last = Mount| first = Steve| year = 2007| month = Jan] The following states ratified the amendment:

# Michigan (April 10, 1933)
# Wisconsin (April 25, 1933)
# Rhode Island (May 8, 1933)
# Wyoming (May 25, 1933)
# New Jersey (June 1, 1933)
# Delaware (June 24, 1933)
# Indiana (June 26, 1933)
# Massachusetts (June 26, 1933)
# New York (June 27, 1933)
# Illinois (July 10, 1933)
# Iowa (July 10, 1933)
# Connecticut (July 11, 1933)
# New Hampshire (July 11, 1933)
# California (July 24, 1933)
# West Virginia (July 25, 1933)
# Arkansas (August 1, 1933)
# Oregon (August 7, 1933)
# Alabama (August 8, 1933)
# Tennessee (August 11, 1933)
# Missouri (August 29, 1933)
# Arizona (September 5, 1933)
# Nevada (September 5, 1933)
# Vermont (September 23, 1933)
# Colorado (September 26, 1933)
# Washington (October 3, 1933)
# Minnesota (October 10, 1933)
# Idaho (October 17, 1933)
# Maryland (October 18, 1933)
# Virginia (October 25, 1933)
# New Mexico (November 2, 1933)
# Florida (November 14, 1933)
# Texas (November 24, 1933)
# Kentucky (November 27, 1933)
# Ohio (December 5, 1933)
# Pennsylvania (December 5, 1933)
# Utah (December 5, 1933)

Ratification was completed on December 5, 1933. The amendment was subsequently ratified by the following states:

# Maine (December 6, 1933)
# Montana (August 6, 1934)

In addition, the following state rejected the amendment:

# South Carolina (December 4, 1933)

North Carolina voters rejected a convention to consider the amendment on November 7, 1933. [cite web|url=http://pdba.georgetown.edu/Constitutions/USA/amendments.html |title=Amendments to the Constitution of the United States / Enmiendas a la Constitución de los Estados Unidos |publisher=Pdba.georgetown.edu |date= |accessdate=2008-09-06]

See also

* Alcohol laws of the United States by state
* Alcoholic beverage control state


External links

* [http://www.archives.gov/national-archives-experience/charters/constitution_amendments_11-27.html#21 National Archives: Twenty first Amendment]
* [http://www.law.cornell.edu/anncon/html/amdt21toc_user.html CRS Annotated Constitution: Twenty first Amendment]

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