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Volstead Act

  • By: Richard F. Hamm
  • In: Encyclopedia of Drug Policy
  • Edited by: Mark A. R. Kleiman & James E. Hawdon
  • Subject:Public Policy, Drug Crimes

The Volstead Act was the federal law that implemented the Eighteenth Amendment, creating the structure for the system of concurrent enforcement laid out in that amendment. The scheme set out in the Volstead Act never worked as planned, and federal enforcement of beverage alcohol prohibition was a failure. Nevertheless, this failed effort dramatically expanded the federal government's role in anticrime efforts.

While both Congressman Andrew Volstead and Anti-Saloon League lobbyist Wayne Wheeler claimed to have written the original text, it is beyond dispute that the measure was an Anti-Saloon League proposal. The league called for a federal prohibition law on the day after the last needed state ratified the prohibition amendment. The process to create this law began by collecting various laws of the prohibition states ...

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