Why Was the 18th Amendment Important?

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The 18th Amendment, which began the Prohibition era with the outlawing of alcohol, opened the doors to organized crime during the 1920s, overwhelming law enforcement prior to the amendment's repeal in 1933. This was the only American constitutional amendment to be repealed in its entirety.

The 18th Amendment took effect on Jan. 17, 1920, after years of lobbying by the progressive temperance movement. Women were the prime movers behind both temperance and women's suffrage and viewed the elimination of alcohol as a key women's-rights issue.

While in the early days of Prohibition alcohol consumption and alcohol-related crime decreased, the demand for alcohol that still existed empowered crime bosses to organize networks for the production and smuggling of alcohol. Safety standards for liquor became nonexistent. While, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, crime overall decreased, the nature of crime did change. Homicides related to organized crime skyrocketed, and more people were incarcerated than ever before. The Volstead Act, enacted to help enforce Prohibition, proved to be nearly unenforceable.

After a decade of intensifying organized crime and then the crushing burden of the Great Depression, America decided Prohibition was not worth the cost. On Dec. 5, 1933, state conventions overwhelmingly voted to pass the 21st Amendment repealing Prohibition.