Making something illegal that used to be legal is a tricky road to manoeuvre.
Opium? Sure, I understand. DDT? Makes sense.
But making booze illegal after being freely produced and imbibed for hundreds of years in North America — what idiot dreamed that one up?
Prohibition was heavily supported by the women of Canada and U.S.A. I apologize for my sex. Sadly, it has taken decades to undo the tightening of that temperance screw.
In 1920, the United States outlawed the manufacture and consumption of alcoholic beverages. Millions of gallons of alcohol were poured down the drain. Breweries, vineyards and distilleries all shut down or devised new non-alcohol bevvies to push — near-beer became popular.
Prohibition didn’t end in the U.S. until 1933. The aptly named 21st Amendment Brewery makes a fine series of beers that taste even better knowing they commemorate the joyful amendment that overturned Prohibition. Try their Bitter American Session Ale for tasty dose of freedom.
In Canada, Prohibition came into full effect as part of the War Measures Act on April 1, 1918 — a mean April Fool’s day joke. Most provinces repealed the ban in the 1920s, but Prince Edward Island kept it on the books until 1948.
One throwback to that period is Canada’s Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act, a 1928 law that made it illegal to transport alcohol from province to province without the permission of the provincial liquor control board. This law was introduced to deter bootleggers because different provinces repealed Prohibition at different times.
I have never heard of anyone being busted for breaking this law, but the fact that it still exists is a vestige of those dark years.
During American Prohibition, a ruling allowed folks to make of modest amounts of wine and cider, but somebody forgot to add beer to the list so brewing beer at home remained an illicit practice until 1978.
Jimmy Carter’s legacy in my household is that he signed a federal bill that made homebrewing legitimate. As a result, homebrewers were no longer required to pay excise taxes on their caches. The law also exempted homebrewers from posting an expensive penal bond.
But prior to July 1, 2013, homebrewing in Alabama was legally classified as a felony, right up there with stabbing somebody in the face.
We may feel our liquor laws are restrictive, but imagine living in Japan, where it is only legal to brew beers at home up to 1% alcohol by volume, or a Muslim country like Malaysia where homebrewing is illegal.
Comparatively I am grateful to be living in North America. Let’s just hope Prohibition remains a distant memory, where it belongs.