The Prohibition Act was The Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Volstead Act became the regulatory ways and means for enforcement of the Amendment, and became law-of-the-land taking effect on February 1, 1920.
The Volstead Act was promulgated to control the manufacture, transportation, import, export, delivery, and possession of intoxicating spirits. Citizens were prohibited from manufacturing, producing, buying, or selling intoxicating spirits except as authorized by the Act – thus solving, or so they thought, the nations’ scourge, poverty, crime, unemployment and violence towards women and children along with all other evil abuses of mankind.
The Act began a phase of new regulations treading on the practice of medicine. Physicians were using alcohol for the treatment of diabetes, cancer, asthma, dyspepsia, snake bite, lactation problems and old age. The encroachment of Congress over the rights of physicians to treat their patients created a ground swell against Governmental interference. Ironically, the U.S. Treasury Department provided legal certificates to physicians who could then provide, free of charge, medical prescriptions, allowing the well-to-do and politically connected access to alcohol. Ironically, a pharmacy authorized to fill those prescriptions’ for a fee, was located just five blocks from the U.S. Capital.
Prohibition, “the great noble experiment,” totally failed to prevent the consumption of alcohol and led to waves of crime, murder, mayhem, riots, violence, non-taxed alcohol use and predictably, political corruption. Ultimately, common sense and the demand for tax revenues proved more desirable, thus ending the Prohibition Act with passage of the Twenty First Amendment in 1933 – making it the only time in American history that one Amendment was repealed by another..!!
An excellent reference point and complete summary of the Prohibition and Volstead Acts are located at: