Passed by Congress February 20, 1933. Ratified December 5, 1933. The 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment.
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 The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.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 therein 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 nation’s fourteen-year experiment with prohibition ended on December 5, 1933, when Utah became the thirty-sixth state to ratify Amendment XXI. Amendment XXI returned the regulation of alcohol to the states. Each state sets its own rules for the sale and importation of alcohol, including the drinking age.
Because a federal law provides federal funds to states that prohibit the sale of alcohol to minors under the age of twenty-one, all fifty states have set their drinking age there. Rules about how alcohol is sold vary greatly from state to state.
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Only thirteen years after Prohibition took effect, the Eighteenth Amendment was repealed by the Twenty-first Amendment. This was the first time a constitutional amendment had ever been repealed. Widespread corruption and lawbreaking caused many Americans to believe that the “noble experiment” of Prohibition had failed. In addition, breweries and distilleries promised more jobs for the unemployed during the depths of the Great Depression. Some Americans argue that today’s war on drugs is similar to the Prohibition movement, and with equal success.
Linda R. Monk, J.D., is a constitutional scholar, journalist, and nationally award-winning author. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she twice received the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award, its highest honor for law-related media. Her books include The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution, Ordinary Americans: U.S. History Through the Eyes of Everyday People, and The Bill of Rights: A User’s Guide. For more than 25 years, Dr. Monk has written commentary for newspapers nationwide, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, and Huffington Post. In addition, she has appeared on MSNBC, C-SPAN, and NPR.