What were some ways people defeated prohibition laws?

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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An easier question might be in what ways didn't people defeat prohibition efforts?  The law was utterly unenforceable, and not even a dent in alcohol consumption was made the entire time that the 18th Amendment was in effect.

There were only 1500 Treasury agents ("prohis" they were called) to enforce the laws, with more than 18,000 miles of coastline and inland waterways to patrol.  Alcohol was legal everywhere else in the world, so smuggling from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and even Europe was relatively easy and widespread.

This smuggled alcohol was then stored in warehouses, police were bribed, and distribution to illegal bars, "speakeasies" sprang up in every city.

If you lived in the countryside, especially in the South, then many families had their own distilleries, or "stills" set up in their barns and basements.  Others would brew up "bathtub gin" in their own homes.

Even when the agents did make arrests and citations, the courts simply became flooded with minor offenders, such that the whole system became paralyzed with these cases.  Most were let off with a small fine.  When agents seized smuggled shipments (much like drug seizures today) the organized crime behind the smuggling just chalked it up to the cost of doing business and smuggled more.

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