December 1933

21st Amendment Ratified, Prohibition Ended


December 5, 2017 marks 84 years since the United States ratified the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and paved the way for the modern three-tier beverage alcohol system.

Eighty Years Ago: Rhode Island Voted to Repeal Prohibition


On May 8, Rhode Island marks an historic anniversary: on that date eighty years ago, Rhode Island voted to ratify the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, making it the third of 36 states to do so, ultimately ending Prohibition and repealing the 18th Amendment. Marking this occasion, the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) released a detailed economic snapshot of the industry’s multi-billion dollar impact in Rhode Island. 
Today, the Rhode Island wine and spirits industry supports more than 2,400 direct jobs, almost 600 supplier and service provider jobs, and 4,200 total jobs statewide. Wine and spirits wholesalers throughout the state directly employ approximately 340 Rhode Island workers. The industry generates a total economic impact of $449 million, a direct economic impact of $187 million, and pays more than $157 million in wages to Rhode Island-based workers each year, according to an economic analysis released by WSWA and prepared by New York-based John Dunham & Associates.
Beyond wages and economic impact, the wine and spirits industry in Rhode Island generates more than $33 million in business taxes for state government ($37 million for the federal government) and approximately $30 million in consumer-paid state taxes on beverage alcohol products.
“The 21st Amendment paved the way for the creation of the modern three-tier beverage alcohol regulatory system that today delivers the widest variety of products available to consumers anywhere in the world in a manner that is safe, well-regulated, and ensures reliable revenue streams for state and federal government,” WSWA President and CEO Craig Wolf said.
On May 8 in 1933, Rhode Island became the third state to take action on an historic Constitutional amendment—the only amendment to repeal another amendment, and the only amendment ratified by the state convention process. In fact, Rhode Island was one of two states along with Connecticut to reject the 18th Amendment, which lead to Prohibition.
Wolf pointed out that even today in Europe, Asia and Latin America, consumers regularly suffer because of unsafe, adulterated or counterfeit beverage alcohol. He said these issues are non-existent in the United States largely because of the regulatory framework enacted by the states and federal government under the 21st Amendment.
WSWA is the national trade association representing the wholesale tier of the wine and spirits industry. It is dedicated to advancing the interests and independence of wholesale distributors and brokers of wine and spirits. Founded in 1943, WSWA has over 350 member companies in 50 states and the District of Columbia, and its members distribute more than 70 percent of all wines and spirits sold at wholesale in the United States. More information is available at

Back to news releases