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              Congressional                                           ______
          SA  Research Service

The Eighteenth Amendment and National

Prohibition, Part 6: Supreme Court Cases

June  26, 2023

This Legal Sidebar post is the sixth in a seven-part series that discusses the Eighteenth Amendment to the
Constitution. Prior to its repeal, the Eighteenth Amendment prohibited the manufacture, sale, or
transportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes within the United States. Section 2 of the
Amendment  granted Congress and the state legislatures concurrent power to enforce nationwide
Prohibition by enacting appropriate legislation. The Eighteenth Amendment was partly a response to the
Supreme Court's pre-Prohibition Era Commerce Clause jurisprudence, which limited the federal and state
governments' power over the liquor traffic. As such, the Eighteenth Amendment's history provides insight
into the judicial evolution of the Commerce Clause, which operates as both a positive grant of legislative
power to Congress and a limit on state authority to regulate commerce. Additional information on this
topic will be published in the Constitution Annotated: Analysis and Interpretation of the U.S.

The   Eighteenth   Amendment and the Supreme Court

Prohibition took effect throughout the United States on January 17, 1920, which was one year after the
states ratified the Eighteenth Amendment. Beginning with the consolidated National Prohibition Cases in
1920, the Supreme Court outlined the Eighteenth Amendment's scope and the federal and state
governments' concurrent powers to enforce it. The Court also confronted questions about whether the
circumstances of the Eighteenth Amendment's proposal and ratification violated the requirements of
Article V of the Constitution. The Court rejected these Article V challenges, determining that the
Amendment  had become a part of the Constitution and was to be respected and given effect the same
as other provisions of that instrument.

Scope  of the Eighteenth  Amendments Prohibition
A few months after Prohibition took effect, the Supreme Court confirmed its sweeping scope. In the
National Prohibition Cases, the Court upheld the Eighteenth Amendment and provisions of the Volstead
Act against various legal challenges. The Court determined that Section 1 of the Amendment, which
barred the manufacture, sale, or transportation of alcohol for beverage purposes, established Prohibition

                                                              Congressional Research Service

CRS Legal Sidebar
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