Twenty-first Amendment


  1. an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1933, providing for the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment, which had outlawed the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages.


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What is the Twenty-first Amendment?

The Twenty-first Amendment is the amendment to the US Constitution that repealed the Eighteenth Amendment, which had outlawed the production, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages.

The Constitution of the United States is the document that serves as the fundamental law of the country.  An amendment is a change to something. An amendment to the Constitution is any text added to the original document since its ratification in 1788. The Constitution has been amended 27 times in American history.

There are three short sections to the Twenty-First Amendment.

The first section states that “the eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.”

The second section states that “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.” This section has been interpreted to mean that individual states (and territories) can pass their own laws restricting or banning the sale of alcohol.

The third section states that the amendment would only go into effect if it was successfully ratified by state conventions within seven years, which it was.

The Twenty-first Amendment is the only amendment that repeals another amendment and is the only amendment that was ratified by state conventions rather than state legislatures.

Scholars and the Supreme Court have interpreted the second section to mean that the states have the power to pass their own laws regarding alcohol. This is why local areas, such as cities and counties, can legally outlaw the sale of alcohol. Such areas are sometimes described as “dry,” meaning favoring prohibition of the manufacture and sale of alcohol.

It also allows states, like Pennsylvania, to make it so that only the state government is legally allowed to sell wine and spirits. However, laws like these can only apply within the state and cannot interfere with interstate commerce laws, which fall under the authority of Congress.

Why is Twenty-first Amendment important?

Because of what it does, the Twenty-first Amendment will be forever linked to the Eighteenth Amendment and Prohibition, the 13-year period from 1920 until 1933 when the prohibition of alcohol was in effect nationwide.

By the 1930s, Prohibition was considered by many to be a failed experiment and had become widely unpopular among the public. In particular, both the public and the government were appalled by the rise of organized crime and the rampant disrespect for authority and police that had resulted from Prohibition. They wanted Prohibition gone as soon as possible.

The temperance movement, which strongly opposed consuming alcohol, was still a powerful movement even as the wider public wanted a repeal. Concerned that state legislatures would be afraid to vote for ratification out of fear of angering temperance voters, Congress instead required the amendment to be passed by state conventions, which is allowed by the Constitution under Article V. They wrote such language in the amendment itself. Congress’s gamble paid off when the Twenty-first Amendment was successfully ratified on December 5, 1933.

Did you know … ?

After the Twenty-first Amendment was ratified, states were free to decide whether they wanted to continue prohibiting the sale of alcohol within their borders. Mississippi was the last state to repeal its Prohibition law, which it did in 1966.

What are real-life examples of Twenty-first Amendment?

Today, alcoholic drinks are widely available in much of the United States. Americans who are aged 21 or older can legally buy beer and other drinks.

Because alcoholic drinks are quite popular, the Twenty-first Amendment still has a lot of fans today.

What other words are related to Twenty-first Amendment?

Quiz yourself!

The Twenty-first Amendment repealed which previous amendment?

A. Tenth Amendment
B. Eighth Amendment
C. Eighteenth Amendment
D. Thirteenth Amendment