The to Cincinnati to capitalize on a loophole

            The King of Bootleggers, George Remus, was a bootlegger “lawyer
who moved from Chicago to Cincinnati to capitalize on a loophole in Prohibition”.
He bought “stockpiles of alcohol, allegedly for medicinal purposes, and then
‘hijacked’ his company’s own shipments” (Rosen 1).  Jim Reis from the Kentucky Post, alleged his
success in the bootleg liquor business was riddled with reports that his
“henchmen were seen carrying shoe boxes of $50 and $100 bills and putting them
in bank safety deposit boxes” .  In 1921,
prohibition agents raided his bootleg operated farm outside of Cincinnati.
Remus and thirteen others were sent to federal prison in Atlanta. When Remus
was in prison he directed his “empire and was suspected of masterminding the
theft of $1.8 million in whiskey from the Jack Daniel’s Distillery warehouse in
St. Louis” (Reis 1). Remus would be sent to jail multiple times throughout the Prohibition
era. You might be asking ‘How was he able to do all of this?’ and ‘How was he able
to build an empire from legal loopholes?’.  He was able to build his eccentric empire because
people wanted it. The demand was through the roof and he capitalized on the fact
that people would do and pay anything to get their hands on alcohol.

is especially relevant in today’s society as it lends as a learning experience
in successful policies, shows the formation of the now ever-present black
markets and gangs, and gives way for marijuana legalization. Public support is the
key to a successful policy.  Prohibition
created black markets and organized crime gangs which are still significant and
around today. Understanding the underlying emotions, reactions, and
consequences of Prohibition gives an insight for the potential legalization of a
marijuana policy.

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            Prohibition’s downfall can be attributed to the lack of
public support for the legislation. The lack public support lead to the
formation of gangs and organized crime and finally the gangs and organized
crime created corruption in the government. Though lasting roughly fourteen
years, Prohibition proved to be a turning point in American history where the
failure can be traced directly to the public’s approval or lack thereof. The
public’s disapproval of Prohibition led to black markets such as speakeasies
and bootleggers. Black markets helped organized crime emerge, for instance gangs
and the emergence of Al Capone and George Remus into the spotlight. Organized
crime produced corruption in the government and its surrounding agencies.

            Prohibition, while a failure for the most part, did show
a decrease in cirrhosis cases and deaths.  Statistics show that cirrhosis deaths had fallen and
continued to maintain a constant rate.  
In Alcohol Prohibition and
Cirrhosis, authors Angela Dills and Jeffery Miron maintain that the average
amount of deaths from 1920 through 1933 was 7.3 per 100,000 people while the
average cirrhosis death rate from 1934-1997 was 11.5 per 100,000 people.  When compared to the pre-Prohibition era, the
authors had concluded that “prohibition had reduced cirrhosis death rate by
almost 50%”.  However, it cannot be
assumed that Prohibition caused the decrease in cirrhosis deaths as that rate
had been declining for at least a decade prior to the launch of Prohibition (298-299).

has also been named for decreasing murder rates because it had been cited that
alcohol had a direct correlation with murder rates. Brendan Livingston a
department chair in the Department of Economics from Rowan University analyzed
murder rates over an  year period.  For the 1911–1919
estimation, prohibition was “correlated with a decline of murders in the first
two years after implementation, but had no measurable effect on homicides
afterwards”. The 1911–1929 estimates, which included states that were forced
into prohibition by the Constitutional Amendment, was also “correlated with a
decline in homicides immediately after prohibition, but no measurable effect
after two years”.  Further analysis, shows
that there was a steady increase in homicides after 1920.  Prohibition did have an effect on murder
rates in the short term however, the evidence fell short in the long term.

was the constitutional ban on the production, importation, sale and
transportation of alcohol from 1920 through 1933. Wayne Wheeler was in a
Congregational church in Oberlin, Ohio, listening to a temperance lecture
delivered by Rev. Howard Hyde Russell, a former lawyer who had recently formed
an organization called the Anti-Saloon League (Okrent 1). According to the
Smithsonian, after joining Russell in prayer, Wheeler signed on to become one
of the first full-time employees of the ASL, which he would turn into the most
effective political pressure group the country had ever known (Okrent 1). The
ASL’s state-by-state campaign was reasonably effective, particularly in the
South where they called for stricter laws against alcohol. In 1913, however,
two events led the ASL to take on a new strategy. Congress overrode President
William Howard Taft’s veto of the Webb-Kenyon Act, which banned the importation
of alcoholic beverages into a dry state (Okrent 1). The 246 to 95 override vote
in the House of Representatives showed the power of the anti-liquor forces and
how broadly representative they had become. The override was followed by
enactment of a national income tax authorized by the recently ratified 16th
Amendment. This led to the rallying cry for an absolute ban on alcohol (Okrent

Prohibition was put into
legislation by Andrew Volstead a congressman from Minnesota when he introduced
the ban in 1919.  Referred to as the
National Prohibition Law or the Volstead Act, the ratified eighteenth-amendment
“defined the prohibited ‘intoxicating liquors’ as those with an alcoholic
content of more than 0.5 percent, although it made concessions for liquors sold
for medicinal, sacramental, and industrial purposes, and for fruit or grape
beverages prepared for personal use in homes”(Funk Wagnalls 1). As declarative
as the 18th Amendment was—the Volstead Act still allowed exceptions. According
to the Smithsonian Institution, you were allowed to keep (and drink) liquor you
had in your possession as of January 16, 1920.  This loophole enabled the Yale Club in New
York to store a supply large enough to last the 14 years that Prohibition was
enforced. Farmers were allowed to “preserve” their fruit through fermentation,
which put “hard cider in cupboards across the countryside and homemade wine in
urban basements”. Medicinal liquor was still allowed, which helped physicians
who charged by the prescription and pharmacists who sold “medicinal brands like
Old Grand-Dad and Johnnie Walker. A religious exception created a boom in
sacramental wines (Okrent 1).

Prohibition had its many
supporters but it also had most of the public’s disapproval.  Literature had cited that this period was one
of “moral decay and social disorder” on the basis of “Volsteadism” which were
the violent and intrusive “searches, seizures, and shootings by police” who
seemed to go after “law-respecting citizens”(Funk Wagnalls 1). The encyclopedia
alleges that Prohibition “distorted the role of alcohol in American life,
causing people to drink more rather than less” and that it “promoted disrespect
for the law; that it generated a wave of organized criminal activity, during
which the bootlegger, the “speakeasy”, and the gangster became popular
institutions; and that the profits available to criminals from illegal alcohol
corrupted almost every level of government”. The Eighteenth amendment was then
repealed in 1933 with a 73% consensus from congress and the state governments (Funk
Wagnalls 1).

            Public opinion was an important aspect in the causation
of Prohibition’s failure.  Prohibition
was looked at more as an idea or a hypothetical situation on paper and when
implemented it was thought to have the public’s rallying support. It was most
likely very easy to point to alcohol as the main contributor for a lot of the
problems in society, public drunkenness, death, crime and many more just to
name a few.  However, telling people they
cannot have something they have had for a very long time is a little tricky. Instead,
what happened was a “major shift in public opinion, during the early years of
the Great Depression, when opponents could argue persuasively that Prohibition
deprived people of jobs and governments of revenue and generally contributed to
economic stagnation”(Funk Wagnalls 1).

 The basis of public opinion is an essential
role in any democracy. The power of the public to sway legislation and to
create a conversation is exactly what happened in the case of Prohibition. The
Association Against the Prohibition Amendment (AAPA) “objected to the increased
power given to the federal government by National Prohibition. Their
well-funded arguments, however, fell on deaf ears among the voters throughout the
era. When American voters changed their minds about Prohibition, the AAPA  together with other repeal organizations,
played a key role in focusing and channeling sentiment through an innovative
path to Repeal, the use of specially elected state conventions” (Blocker
239).  The public seemed to be
law-abiding at first but when the public stopped supporting Prohibition,
illicit markets or commonly referred to as black markets began to pop up and
infiltrate towns, cities, and states.

            Black markets led Prohibition down the long winding road
of failure. Black markets are underground economies where anything illegal is
sold in private locations to people who were willing to go to illegal depths.
Speakeasies, roadhouses, stills, breweries, and bottling plants are just a few
black markets that existed during Prohibition. 
Speakeasies were bars, taverns, and saloons that began to emerge all
over the country in order to sell alcohol to those who wanted it (Hicks 1).  Speakeasies and roadhouses became prominent
fixtures in the Prohibition era due to their soaring popularity among the
public.  From speakeasies and roadhouses
arose the concept of “bootlegging”.  

bootlegger is a person or persons who illegally transport and sell the
“intoxicating liquors” that had been subsequently banned during
Prohibition.  Two of the most notorious
bootleggers were George Remus and Al Capone. The government began cracking down
on bootleggers by “demanding their ownership of whiskey found at various
warehouses. If the bootlegger denied ownership, the government seized the
liquor. If the bootlegger claimed ownership by some legal means, the government
filed suit for unpaid taxes on the liquor in storage, which was the law”. In
August 1926, Remus claimed “part ownership in a warehouse with 1,700 barrels of
whiskey” which sent him to jail again (Reis 1).

formation of organized crime, gangs and bootleggers created corruption in
government agencies and its surrounding areas. There was corruption in most
levels of the government including police corruption and judicial corruption. Now,
there has and will always be corruption in every part of society. However, the
rise of government corruption reached an all time high during the prohibition

corruption was an integral part of how organized crime and bootleggers stayed
in business. Al Capone’s Chicago organization had allegedly taken in “$60
million in 1927 and had half the city’s police on its payroll” (Hanson 1)
.  The reason why Capone was able to
bring in that astronomical figure is all due to police corruption. Capone had
been quoted saying ‘I got nothing against the honest cop on the beat.  You just have them transferred someplace where
they can’t do you any harm’. The amount of pull Al Capone had in law
enforcement displays the extent of his powerful reach.  When the officers were transferred there were
always plenty of corrupt officers to replace them. Historically speaking, cops
took bribes mainly for greed but close to the end of Prohibition the Great
Depression was brewing which put everyone in tough financial positions. Police
officials often warned speakeasies of “impending raids or let evidence, such as
liquor, disappear, and judges dismissed charges” (Hanson 1). Some policemen, “on
salaries less than $4,000 a year, had up to $200,000 in the bank. That’s about
$2,750,000 in today’s dollars” (Hanson 1). 
The corruption in the police departments is inevitable when speaking in
terms of illegal activities.

Corruption extended to the highest
levels of government including the judicial system. The highest law enforcement
officer in the country is the Attorney General. U.S. Attorney General Harry
Daughtery “was guilty of selling alcohol illegally and giving licenses and
pardons to offenders. He also took bribes from other bootleggers”(Hanson 1). If
the “highest law enforcement officer” is corrupt what message does that send to
everyone else.

Hanson outlined just a few of the cases involving officials in the government. In
Idaho, there were officials that had arrested
the police chief, the sheriff and a deputy sheriff, and a number of others for
moonshining. In Edgewater, New Jersey, “the
mayor, chief of police, a sergeant, two detectives, a U.S. customs inspector,
and eight others were guilty of conspiracy. A rumrunner confessed that he had
paid them $61,000 to help land liquor worth one million dollars”. In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, “officials
had arrested the sheriff, the assistant chief of police, and seventeen others (policemen,
deputy sheriffs, etc.) for conspiracy”. In Morris County, New Jersey, “the former county prosecutor was found
guilty of accepting bribes from liquor-law violators”. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, “a jury
found a city magistrate guilty of taking $87,993 in liquor bribes during his
ten months in office. That’s about $1,250,000 in today’s dollars”. In South Jacksonville, Florida, “a
federal grand jury indicted almost the entire city administration. It included
the mayor, chief of police, president of the city council, city commissioner,
and fire chief” (Hanson 1).  These cases
show that not all corruption in the government went unnoticed however, there
were hundreds if not thousands of corrupt officials.

The Prohibition Bureau was a law
enforcement agency that all alcohol related cases went through.  George
Remus had thousands of salespeople on his payroll. Many were in law
enforcement. While investigating bribes and payoffs, the Prohibition Bureau “bugged
his hotel suite when he had a meeting with 44 men. It was to work out some of
the logistics of his illegal operation. All 44 were on his payroll. They
included politicians, prohibition agents and federal marshals. Remus estimated
that half his payments went as bribes” (Hanson 1).

People like George Remus and Al
Capone couldn’t have been in business without customers. The key to anything is
the demand. If people hadn’t wanted alcohol then none of these events and
instances would have taken place. The public disapproval for Prohibition is why
black markets, organized crime and corruption took place. The power of public
opinion is an important aspect in today’s society. The public disapproval of
this ban caused speakeasies to arise. The speakeasies were run and supplied by
bootleggers who also happen to be crime and gang leaders. From the crime and
gang leaders, came corruption in almost all forms and levels of
government.  George Remus and Al Capone
are household names for a reason. They were both able to capitalize off of the
demand from the people.

I do not see Prohibition as a total
failure. Prohibition can be seen as a lesson on the controversial legislation
of marijuana.  Now, why would prohibition
have anything to do with the legalization of marijuana? Most laws make sense to
the American people for example no drunk driving, no theft and so on. If the
people think the law is ridiculous or it doesn’t make sense chances are there
is going to be some form of disobeying the law either through black markets or
corruption in the government.  Looking at
marijuana, are there really any health adverse effects or problems that come
from the use of marijuana.



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