Maryland was Unique
Prohibition in Maryland holds a unique place. The state had ratified the 18th Amendment. That created the Noble Experiment. Yet residents generally opposed the law. Over 80% would later vote for Repeal.
The state, especially Baltimore, was home to large numbers of immigrants. Their cultures included drinking. They resented the anti-foreign thrust of the temperance movement. It was part of a cultural war against them.
Residents also opposed federal intrusion into what they saw as their own state’s rights. And they resisted federal intrusion into their personal lives.
Under National Prohibition, both the federal government and the states shared enforcing alcohol laws. Maryland was the only state that refused to pass a law to enforce it. The governor throughout the entire period of Prohibition opposed it.
It had stronger support in other states. Yet it failed throughout the country. Its proponents argued that it would reduce drinking problems. That it would decrease crime. It would improve health. It would stimulate the economy. That would reduce taxes. It would improve public morality. And it would decrease violence.
Prohibition in Maryland
But Prohibition failed miserably. Famous Baltimore journalist, H. L. Mencken, wrote this. “There is not less drunkenness in the Republic, but more. There is not less crime, but more. Not less insanity, but more. The cost of government is not smaller, but vastly greater. Respect for law has not increased, but diminished.”
But Prohibition caused other problems. Moonshine was carelessly made. It often had lead toxins. Consumers sometimes suffered paralysis, blindness or painful death.
It also changed drinking patterns for the worse. People tended to drink less often but heavily. People went to a speakeasy to drink while they could.
Widespread corruption led to a disrespect for the law. It became common for women and young people to rebel by drinking.
People around the country came to agree with most in the state. They thought Prohibition was a bad idea. Events proved them right.