Prohibition in North Carolina: Prohibition Relics Continue

Prohibition in North Carolina has a long history. The state became the first in the south to have state-wide prohibition. It was also the first state in the union to enact state prohibition by a direct vote. It did so with a resounding vote of 62% in favor.

Thus, North Carolina established its own prohibition years before it became nation-wide in 1920. Clearly, most in the state wanted prohibition. And they wanted it to work.


But neither state-wide nor National Prohibition reduced the production of moonshine. After the former was established, speakeasies and blind pigs sprang up. They did so “like mushrooms after rain.” A reported $15,000,000 worth of alcohol came into the state from nearby Richmond, Virginia. That’s each year. That’s about $375,000,000 in today’s dollars

prohibition in North CarolinaThe director of prohibition enforcement for the eastern part of the state expressed frustration. He reported that “we have more illicit distilleries than any other State in the Union. And the number is increasing.”

Prohibition not only failed to reduce crime. It created it. Not only failed to reduce moonshine. It increased it. Not only failed to increase public morality. It reduced it.

Newspaper columnist Franklin Adams expressed tar heel sentiments when he wrote this.

“Prohibition is an awful flop.
We like it.
It can’t stop what it’s meant to stop.
We like it.
It’s left a trail of graft and slime,
It don’t prohibit worth a dime,
It’s filled our land with vice and crime.
Nevertheless, we’re for it.”


States were able to create conventions. They were to consider ratifying Repeal. North Carolina voted against calling such a convention. It did so by a landslide vote. It was 293,484 to 120,190. Nationally, the popular vote on Repeal was in the opposite direction. Seventy-four percent favored Repeal. But the state has never ratified Repeal.

Repeal was in 1933. Then a temperance law maker made a proposal. It was for ABC. That’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board stores. It’s still the law.

Distilled spirits (liquor) can only be bought in ABC government monopoly stores. Even now, some counties don’t have such a store. Prohibition for spirits continues in such counties. Just as in Prohibition.

NC still operates under the strong influence of prohibition-era beliefs. We see this in its dry counties. And in its Blue laws restricting the Sunday sales of alcohol. In its very high alcohol prices. And in the poor selection and service in its monopoly ABC stores.

Vestiges of Prohibition in NC continue.

Prohibition in North Carolina