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PURSER: Celebrating the repeal of Prohibition

December marks turning back of regrettable law

- - Tuesday, December 18, 2012

From office parties to family gatherings, the special celebrations of the holiday season are upon us. The month of December gives Americans reason to celebrate the anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. Americans have one more reason to celebrate: We enjoy a more extensive beer selection than any other country, with 13,000 labels of beer.

From 1920 to 1933, the United States undertook an ultimately failed, 13-year experiment -- the national ban on alcohol -- that resulted in increased crime, widespread abuse and a decreased respect for the rule of law. In December 1933, the 21st Amendment was ratified, ending Prohibition. In its place, a state-based regulatory system was created to maintain localized, flexible controls to ensure a safe, efficient and orderly marketplace for alcoholic beverages.

Today, the American system creates new businesses, supports hundreds of thousands of quality jobs and generates robust interbrand competition, which means consumers have incredible selection when they walk down the beer aisle or visit their local pub. This system enables an entrepreneurial brewer to start a new business and work with a distributor to reach retailers and build brands. Consumers from coast to coast can buy a beer of their choosing, with nearly unlimited options. It's why you can order a California craft beer from a menu in Illinois, see a neon sign light up a Tennessee restaurant promoting a Vermont brewery, or see a tap handle from Pennsylvania in a Texas bar. Within this system, iconic brands, imports from around the world and fast-emerging American craft labels are able to reach a wide network of retailers and ultimately customers.

It's hard to find another system in the United States that has seen such growth and job creation over the past three decades. During the 1980s, fewer than 50 independent breweries were operating, and today there are more than 2,000 brewers in the United States. The beer industry's rapid growth has fostered tremendous innovation and creativity, and consumers benefit from a wide selection of beer suitable for every occasion and season.

In addition to helping new businesses grow, today's system gives each state the ability to enact and enforce alcohol laws consistent with the desires of its citizens. People in Nevada feel very differently about alcohol than people in Utah, for example. The state-based regulatory system allows each state the flexibility to deal with local needs, concerns and circumstances. States continue to have the authority to make and change their own alcohol laws to adapt to local needs.

As Americans come together over the holidays and toast the coming year, beer distributors in local communities across the country are honored to play a part in delivering choice, variety and value to these cherished festivities. Cheers!

Craig A. Purser is president of the National Beer Wholesalers Association.


Correction: The original subhead incorrectly referred to Prohibition as an unconstitutional law. The Washington Times regrets introducing the error into Mr. Purser's article.