March 22, 1933 – President Roosevelt Signs an Act Legalizing the Sale of Beer and Wine

The 18th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1921, prohibited the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors within the United States. During his 1932 presidential campaign, FDR promised to end prohibition.

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When Roosevelt took the oath of office to become the 32nd President of the U.S. on March 4, 1933, a constitutional amendment to repeal Prohibition was already making its way through the state legislatures. At that time, America was in the midst of the worst economic crisis in its history. To help alleviate the problem, FDR initiated the “New Deal” — a series of economic measures to alleviate the worst effects of the depression, reinvigorate the economy, and restore the confidence of the American people in their banks and other key institutions.

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One of the first measures Roosevelt took was to ask Congress for a modification of the Volstead Act:

I recommend to the Congress the passage of legislation for the immediate modification of the Volstead Act, in order to legalize the manufacture and sale of beer and other beverages of such alcoholic content as is permissible under the Constitution; and to provide through the manufacture and sale, by substantial taxes, a proper and much needed revenue for the government.”

Congress agreed to expedite the legislation, and The Beer-Wine Revenue Act was passed on this day in history. This act legalized the sale – and government taxation – of alcoholic beverages containing no more than 3.2 percent alcohol (this level was declared non-intoxicating). The Beer and Wine Revenue Act was followed, in December 1933, by the passage of the 21st Amendment, which officially ended prohibition.

Happy Cleveland residents celebrate the arrival of the first beer shipment to their city on April 9, 1933

Happy Cleveland residents celebrate the arrival of the first beer shipment to their city on April 9, 1933

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