The Debate Over Prohibition



An abundance of loopholes during the time of Prohibition made it possible for Americans to attain alcohol with ease.

"After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited." - The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ("Eighteenth"...).

The Volstead Act had a loophole directly in the writing as it doesn't state that it is illegal to drink or be drunk.

A medicinal liquor prescription stub

One of the biggest loopholes is that alcohol could be prescribed medicinally by physicians. They took advantage of it by ordering whiskey in large quantities (Slavicek 66). Patients, most of whom were not sick but wanted to get drunk legally, were prescribed four liters of alcohol every ten days (Slavicek 66). During Prohibition, the rate of sales for medicinal alcohol went up by 400% (Worth 107). Later on it was found that alcohol had no medicinal value, yet the government did not stop it from being a prescribed medicine (Kerr).

"Whereas, We believe that the use of alcohol is detrimental to the human economy and,
Whereas, its use in therapeutics as a tonic or stimulant or for food has no scientific value; therefore,
Be it Resolved, That the American Medical Association is opposed to the use of alcohol as a beverage; and
Be it Further Resolved, That the use of alcohol as a therapeutic agent should be further discouraged.
Nevertheless, the prohibition laws allowed medicinal use of alcoholic beverages through prescription."
- A resolution passed by the American Medical Association in June of 1917 (Kerr).

Farmers could also profit from alcohol made out of grapes and fruit (Blocker). The government didn't want the grape industry to fail so fruit juices were still legal (Slavicek 56). Farmers sold their harvest in fruit blocks, often called bricks: dehydrated fruit that could easily be turned into alcohol (Slavicek 56). In fact, warning labels that came with the fruit explained how to do so ("Prohibition: Wine...").

An order form for grape block concentrate

"Instructions came in the form of warnings against dissolving the brick in a gallon of water, adding sugar, shaking daily and decanting after three weeks. Unless the buyer eschewed these processes, 13%, wine would be produced." - From the TIME magazine ("Prohibition: Wine...").

There was also tools and ingredients to make potent alcoholic beverages sold in grocery and hardware stores (Slavicek 54). Recipe books on how to home brew alcohol were legal as well (Worth 90).

"People were malting, mashing, boiling, hopping, fermenting, siphoning, settling - all the things that a professional would do but amateurishly." - Eric Burns in the book The Spirit of American (Slavicek 55).