….Prohibition. The Noble Experiment. The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Volstead Act. The day that made men cry — that is, unless they kept a tommy gun at the ready.
Prohibition is known as the period of time where it was illegal to produce and consume liquor. Feds running around to safehouses and using axes to crack open illegal barrels of whiskey and beer. Americans were forced to turn to household items, such as the sacred bathtub and pantyhose, to produce spirits undetected. As for the industry, countless breweries and distilleries went out of business, unable to transition to legal products profitable enough to keep their smokestacks churning. Drinking establishments, as was alluded to in the previous post, had to switch to serving products of the legal variety — ice cream and soda pop.
However, was everyone on either the legal/carbonated side or illegal/gangsterrific side of the law? Was there no happy medium? Indeed there was. The language of the Volstead Act prohibits “intoxicating liquors” — isn’t all liquor intoxicating? Not quite, according to Congress. Available for production was a defined amount of “non-intoxicating cider and fruit juice”, originally set to be no more than 0.5% ABV, but then extended, rendering home wine-making basically legal. But who really wanted to fiddle with grapes, just to arrive at a Pinot Noir that was the same color as a mass-produced Pinot Noir, but without any of the convenience or complexity. And all the 99p red in the world couldn’t make up for the lack of an ice cold beer or a nice jigger of brown, right? What’s a man to do?
Go see the doctor, that’s what. In current times, we know of “medicinal marijuana” that allows pharmacists to prescribe narcotics to those who need it, without criminal penalty. In the decade or so of Prohibition, this was also the method used, as pharmacists would dole out “spirituous frumenti”, the medical term for whiskey:
“To persons who are druggists in good faith, to retail spirituous and vinous liquors at the drug store in quantities not less than a quart, the liquor not to be drunk on the premises or adjacent thereto, and to sell in quantities less than a quart, for medicinal purposes only, on the prescription of a regular practicing physician, $50…” — Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. J.W. Fowler
Now that seems right and just. If I need my medicine, law or no law, I should get my medicine! And who would fight over that right? Lawyers?? Of course. They already had their Constitutional Amendment, why not keep fighting? Well, you know what we say to those lawyers? This:
“Everyone has the right to follow an innocent calling without permission from the government. He may do so with his own whatsoever he pleases, so that he injure no one else…So, then, without governmental interference or consent, we say the farmer may till his soil. the merchant may buy and sell, the lawyer and the doctor practice their professions, and the druggist and pharmacist compound their medicines. And if, by reason of shysters and quacks, an injured people demand protection, or if, because ill-behaved druggists or pretended pharmacists debauch the public morals by dealing out intoxicating liquors and nostrums as beverages, yet the pursuit of these callings cannot be prohibited. The innocent and honest druggist cannot be restrained of his liberty by reason of the dishonest practices of others. His pursuit, being in itself harmless, and indeed useful, and capable of being conducted without harm to the public, cannot be prohibited….” — Commonwealth of Kentucky vs. J.W. Fowler
So with that, let’s raise a glass to this glorious Repeal Day. The anniversary of the right of Dr. Feelgood to prescribe you a fifth of brown. Or for you to just go pick one up from your favorite beverage depot. Or for your favorite barkeep to pour you two fingers of Old Forester, the only bourbon produced before, during, and after Prohibition, as it was used as spirituous frumenti. Any way you get your spirits, let’s celebrate the legality of it all. Cheers. *clink, clink*