Monday, June 11, 2018

Why Does America Still Have "Dry" Counties?

     June 5, 2018 was National Moonshine Day, when American tipplers lift a mason jar to the illegal liquor that got them through Prohibition. For most drinkers, that world of bootleggers and secret stills is just a part of history. But roughly 18 million Americans still live in "dry" counties or municipalities, where the sale of alcohol is banned by law. How have these holdouts survived into modern times, and what are the consequences for people who live there?  There are parts of the United States that were dry even before Prohibition began.

     Statewide bans on alcohol have finally disappeared in the United States.   10% of the country, by area, maintains local restrictions on the sale of alcohol.  The South as of last year, six counties in Texas and 35 in Arkansas were still dry, there are Rules in parts of Alaska are so strict that the mere possession of alcohol is illegal.  Desperate tactics are unsurprising: Prohibition still offers space for unscrupulous vendors to get rich.   People in dry areas will travel for a fix, and the areas drunk-driving accidents are far more common than in wet areas.  Many of these dry counties have locals that head into the woods and manufacture their very special spirits and bootleg them into town where they ae sold from under the counters of many places.

     Researchers at the University of Louisville found that dry counties in Kentucky were nearly twice as likely to be caught hosting illegal meth labs as their wet neighbors. No wonder punters from Kansas to Maryland have voted to relax prohibition in recent years. If for no other reason, letting in the booze makes financial sense. One study from 2014 found that turning three dry Arkansas counties wet could bring in over $30m a year to the local economy-good cause for cracking open a bottle or three.