Vice Squad
Sunday, September 05, 2004
Alcohol Prohibition Repeal in South Carolina

Today's Charlotte Observer has an interesting article by a historian about the months in 1933 between Congress voting for repeal of Prohibition and its ratification by the states. The end of Prohibition restored South Carolina's liquor control to the state's 1895 constitution, which allowed beer and wine but not liquor to be sold in taverns. Later, the state legislature passed a bill that allowed most adults over 21 to obtain a quart of whisky per month for medicinal purposes. (This law presumably would have been legitimate even had Prohibition remained in force, as medicinal alcohol was exempted.) South Carolina held an election on repeal of the national Prohibition, and repeal was defeated -- though shortly thereafter the requisite number of states did ratify repeal, ending Prohibition. One point that I find confusing about the article is the end, where it is suggested that repeal rendered the "quart per month" law moot. But as that was a state law, and repeal returned alcohol control to the states, I don't see why repeal would render the law moot.

South Carolina might alter its state constitution in the near future, to stop requiring the use of mini-bottles for liquor sales at bars. (The things that make it into a constitution, eh?)

Speaking of repeal of Prohibition, Professor Zywicki of the Volokh Conspiracy has concluded his "Wine Wars" series, with a flurry of posts (parts 12 through 17) this weekend. (Vice Squad has promoted Wine Wars in the past.) You will recall that Prof. Zywicki has been explaining why, in his view, the 21st Amendment that eliminated Prohibition does not empower states to discriminate against out-of-state alcohol distributors or manufacturers -- by his reckoning, states can choose highly restrictive alcohol regimes, but must apply them evenhandedly, to state and out-of-state sources alike. One problem with his view is that in a dissenting opinion in a 1987 case, Justice O'Connor (with Chief Justice Rehnquist joining) drew the conclusion that the 21st Amendment did indeed give the states essentially carte blanche to do as they please with respect to liquor regulation. The O'Connor opinion was largely based on the legislative history of the 21st Amendment, and Professor Zywicki's posts argue that any full and fair reading of that history does not support the O'Connor conclusion.

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