90th Anniversary of 18th Amendment Serves as Strong Reminder of Failure of One Size Fits All Alcohol Regulation and the Success of State-Based Alcohol Regulation Established by the 21st Amendment | NBWA: America's Beer Distributors

Media Contact: ERIN DONAR

EDONAR@NBWA.ORG; (703) 229-3702

Press Releases| Jan 15, 2009

ALEXANDRIA, VA – January 16, 2009, marks the 90th anniversary of the 18th Amendment which created a federal one size fits all regulatory regime towards alcohol in the United States. For 13 years during Prohibition, before the states ratified the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution that established today’s successful and effective system of state-based alcohol regulation, it was illegal to manufacture, purchase or consume alcohol in the United States. However, the one-size-fits-all approach to alcohol regulation of the 18th Amendment not only failed to curb alcohol consumption, it increased the societal problems associated with it.

“On this anniversary, and the eve of a presidential inauguration, America’s beer distributors ask the new Congress and administration to recognize the failure of national Prohibition and to work to strengthen the state-based system of alcohol regulation,” said NBWA President Craig Purser. “Problems that occurred during Prohibition - like crime, underground black markets and consumption of counterfeit and poisonous alcohol - illustrate the problems that can occur in the absence of a strong state-based regulatory system.” 

Alcohol is the only product subject to two constitutional amendments.  The intense and clear national debate on the regulation of alcohol was answered by this nation with the passage of the 21st Amendment 75 years ago which both repealed Prohibition and also turned over power to regulate alcohol to the states.

Today, America’s 2,750 licensed beer distributors are the critical link in the three-tier system of beer distribution, sourcing fresh beer only from licensed brewers and importers and supplying it only to state licensed retailers including restaurants and convenience stores.

“Alcohol is a unique product that is not for everyone,” continued Purser. “Today’s state-based system of alcohol regulation and distribution provides responsibility, transparency and accountability in the manufacture, distribution and sale of alcohol. This time-tested, effective system works to encourage responsibility and an orderly marketplace and works to keep American consumers safe.”

Unlike other countries around the world, the American beer distribution system creates a clear chain of custody and provides traceability.  Beer distributors are able to track the product from the time it leaves the brewer or importer until the time it reaches a licensed retailer.  This regulated market works to protect American consumers from poisonous or counterfeit alcohol which is a problem in many countries. 


Founded in 1938, the National Beer Wholesalers Association advocates before government and the public on behalf of the interests of more than 2,750  licensed independent beer distributors with operations servicing every congressional district and state across the country. Beer distributors are committed to ensuring that the products they provide are consumed legally, moderately and responsibly.
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