Thursday, May 15, 2008


The Volstead Act and Prohibition

The Volstead Act (the National Prohibition Act, Oct. 28, 1919, ch. 85, 41 Stat. 305) was the federal statute implementing Prohibition (the constitutional amendment did not go into specifics; a law was needed for that). Surprisingly, it isn't available on the Web. Since Prohibition was repealed, the Volstead Act has been taken out of the US Code, so it can't be found there. There are various abridged versions on the Web, though. I quote from the best one below. Peter Hitchens said that Prohibition did not make possession of liquor illegal, and such seems to be the case, at least possession in one's home.

SEC. 33. After February 1, 1920, the possession of liquors by any person not legally permitted under this title to possess liquor shall be prima facie evidence that such liquor is kept for the purpose of being sold, bartered, exchanged, given away, furnished, or otherwise disposed of in violation of the Provisions of this title. . . . But it shall not be unlawful to possess liquors in one's private dwelling while the same is occupied and used by him as his dwelling only and such liquor need not be reported, provided such liquors are for use only for the personal consumption of the owner thereof and his family residing in such dwelling and of his bona fide guests when entertained by him therein; and the burden, of proof shall be upon the possessor in any action concerning the same to prove that such liquor was law fully acquired, possessed, and used.

This shows why it is important to have the full text of a law. Earlier in the Act it says that possession is illegal except in circumstances explained elsewhere in the Act.

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