Didn’t work then, doesn’t work now. But what do you know of the original movement Did you know this?:
Organized crime received a major boost from Prohibition. Mafia groups limited their activities to prostitution, gambling, and theft until 1920, when organized bootlegging emerged in response to Prohibition. A profitable, often violent, black market for alcohol flourished. Powerful criminal organizations corrupted some law enforcement agencies, leading to racketeering. Prohibition provided a financial basis for organized crime to flourish.
Rather than reducing crime, Prohibition transformed some cities into battlegrounds between opposing bootlegging gangs. In a study of more than thirty major U.S cities during the Prohibition years of 1920 and 1921, the number of crimes increased by 24 percent. Additionally, theft and burglaries increased by 9 percent, homicides by 12.7 percent, assaults and battery rose by 13 percent, drug addiction by 44.6 percent, and police department costs rose by 11.4 percent. This was largely the result of “black-market violence” and the diversion of law enforcement resources elsewhere. Despite the Prohibition movement’s hope that outlawing alcohol would reduce crime, the reality was that the Volstead Act led to higher crime rates than were experienced prior to Prohibition and the establishment of a black market dominated by criminal organizations.
Furthermore, stronger liquor surged in popularity because its potency made it more profitable to smuggle. To prevent bootleggers from using industrial ethyl alcohol to produce illegal beverages, the federal government ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols. In response, bootleggers hired chemists who successfully renatured the alcohol to make it drinkable. As a response, the Treasury Department required manufacturers to add more deadly poisons, including the particularly deadly methyl alcohol. New York City medical examiners prominently opposed these policies because of the danger to human life. As many as 10,000 people died from drinking denatured alcohol before Prohibition ended. New York City medical examiner Charles Norris believed the government took responsibility for murder when they knew the poison was not deterring people and they continued to poison industrial alcohol (which would be used in drinking alcohol) anyway. Norris remarked: “The government knows it is not stopping drinking by putting poison in alcohol… [Y]et it continues its poisoning processes, heedless of the fact that people determined to drink are daily absorbing that poison. Knowing this to be true, the United States government must be charged with the moral responsibility for the deaths that poisoned liquor causes, although it cannot be held legally responsible.”
Another lethal substance that was often substituted for alcohol was “canned heat”, also commonly known as Sterno. Forcing the substance through a makeshift filter, such as a handkerchief, created a rough liquor substitute; however, the result was poisonous, though not often lethal. Many of those who were poisoned as a result united to sue the government for reparations after the end of Prohibition.
Making alcohol at home was very common during Prohibition. Stores sold grape concentrate with warning labels that listed the steps that should be avoided to prevent the juice from fermenting into wine. Some drugstores sold “medical wine” with around a 22 percent alcohol content. In order to justify the sale, the wine was given a medicinal taste. Home-distilled hard liquor was called bathtub gin in northern cities, and moonshine in rural areas of Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee. Homebrewing good hard liquor was easier than brewing good beer. Since selling privately distilled alcohol was illegal and bypassed government taxation, law enforcement officers relentlessly pursued manufacturers. In response, bootleggers modified their cars and trucks by enhancing the engines and suspensions to make faster vehicles that, they presumed, would improve their chances of outrunning and escaping agents of the Bureau of Prohibition, commonly called “revenue agents” or “revenuers”. These cars became known as “moonshine runners” or “‘shine runners”. Shops were also known to participate in the underground liquor market, by loading their stocks with ingredients for liquors, which anyone could legally purchase (these include: benedictine, vermouth, scotch mash, and even ethyl alcohol).
Prohibition also had an effect on the music industry in the United States, specifically with jazz. Speakeasies became far more popular during that time, and the effects of the Great Depression caused a migration that led to a greater dispersal of jazz music. Movement began from New Orleans and went north through Chicago and to New York. This led to the development of different styles in different cities. Because of its popularity in speakeasies and the development of more advanced recording devices, jazz became very popular very quickly. It was also at the forefront of the minimal integration efforts going on at the time, as it united mostly black musicians with mostly white audiences.
Along with other economic effects, the enactment and enforcement of Prohibition caused an increase in resource costs. During the 1920s the annual budget of the Bureau of Prohibition went from $4.4 million to $13.4 million. Additionally, the U.S. Coast Guard spent an average of $13 million annually on enforcement of prohibition laws. These numbers do not take into account the costs to local and state governments.
When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, organized crime lost nearly all of its black market profits from alcohol in most states, because of competition with legal liquor stores selling alcohol at lower prices. (States still retained the right to enforce their own state laws concerning alcohol consumption.)