Prohibition in Oregon was Welcomed at First, then Rejected

prohibition in Oregon
Prohibition in Oregon was welcomed at first.

Prohibition in Oregon was welcomed. The state had eagerly ratified the 18th Amendment. That created National Prohibition in 1920. Temperance beliefs were strong in Oregon. Voters had approved state-wide prohibition five years earlier.

Residents widely thought prohibition would improve health. Increase safety. And reduce crime. That it would lower violence. Improve public morality. And protect young people.

Selling alcoholic beverages was outlawed. But the demand for them wasn’t. Moonshining and bootlegging became highly profitable. Cities along the Pacific coast tended to become bootlegging centers.

Prohibition in Oregon


Illegal producers and sellers paid bribes to police, sheriffs, and others. It was a cost of doing business.

Widespread corruption reduced respect for Prohibition. And for law in general. Alcohol had also become a highly-desired “forbidden fruit.” For the first time, drinking became popular among women and young people.

Prohibition also promoted a new drinking pattern. That’s drinking less often but very heavily. People didn’t go to a speakeasy to leisurely sip their drinks. They went to to get drunk.

Dangerous Bootleg

And the beverages could be dangerous to life and health. Moonshiners made their products quickly. So they sometimes had lead toxins. Drinkers of it sometimes had paralysis, blindness or even painful death.


That wasn’t the only danger. There was violence between competing gangsters. That sometimes led to the injury or death of innocent people.

Prohibition in Oregon wasn’t improving health but threatening it. It wasn’t increasing safety but reducing it. The law wasn’t lowering violence but increasing it. It wasn’t improving public morality but destroying it. It wasn’t protecting young people but endangering them.


Prohibition was clearly counter productive. Voters called for its end. The overall crime rate in the state dropped sharply after Repeal. The murder rate dropped for 10 consecutive years.

Readings: Prohibition in Oregon