Steven A. Levine
Coordinator for Educational Programs
Ninety three years ago this month the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, banning the "manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors." Congressman Fiorello H. La Guardia was a major opponent of prohibition. In the 1926 photo below you can see him mixing "near beer" with malt tonic to create 2% beer to demonstrate how easily Prohibition could be flouted. In his article "Prohibition: A National Farce" (March 1927 "A Smokers Companion"), La Guardia argued that Prohibition was impossible to enforce, led to criminality, and cost the government hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue. In "Marijuana Push in Colorado Likens It to Alcohol," The New York Times reports similar arguments being made by proponents of marijuana legalization, "Banning or improperly regulating a substance that large numbers of people will use anyway failed in the 1920s with alcohol - with the spread of speakeasies and corruption during Prohibition - and is failing now with marijuana, they say."
Fiorello La Guardia pouring beer at his congressional office, June 1926.
The La Guardia and Wagner Archives explores these issues in our "Unforgiving Economy" calendar/website in a month called "The Underground Economy," and developed a lesson in our Women's Leadership Curriculum on temperance and prohibition, called 19th Century Reformers Ida Wells-Barnett and Frances E. Willard.
Below are some other interesting links related to that theme: