NAHITA frequently receives messages from concerned business owners and consumers asking if there are any laws threatening to turn them into criminals, and if so, how can they preserve their American right to Free Choice.
Whether through legislation, citizen initiatives, or the power of consumer activism, NAHITA seeks to prevent and eradicate unconstitutional laws that affect our industry's participation in the free market. Read on to learn a little bit about some of the methods we use.
The Legislative Route
NAHITA Advocates look at whether any laws exist or are pending (either on the state, federal or local level) that violate our Industry's Free Market participation. Our Advocate's primary concern is what already exists on the issue and the extent to which it is being carried out.
While many legislators are responsive to prohibition initiatives in theory, their agendas must mesh with their Constitutional authority to form the basis of legitimate legislation. However, if the legislator chooses to attack American's freedom of choice, he or she will introduce a measure into the political process, becoming its “sponsor.” Go to How a Bill Becomes a Law to find out what happens next.
Once an unconstitutional bill is in motion, NAHITA Government Relations liaisons will contact the sponsoring legislator and their co-sponsors and work to build public support for defeating the measure.
Through a public ballot initiative, an issue is voted on directly by the citizens of the state. While citizen action such as a ballot initiative can really make a difference, the process itself can draw out strong opposition groups—and some state legislatures have the power to overturn ballot decisions. Still, ballot initiatives are often the most appropriate way to make change relatively quickly on issues that have strong public backing.
Consumer Advocacy & Education Campaigns
Successful consumer campaigns have led many companies, and even governments, to stop objectionable practices. For example, in the late 1920's - early 1930s, more and more Americans found the idea of repealing the National Prohibition Act (Volstead Act) increasingly attractive. One of the reasons was the many social problems that had been attributed to the Prohibition era. Mafia groups limited their activities to gambling and theft until 1920, when organized bootlegging manifested in response to the effect of Prohibition. A profitable, often violent, black market for alcohol flourished. Powerful gangs corrupted law enforcement agencies, leading to racketeering. In essence prohibition provided a financial basis for organized crime to flourish. Rather than reducing crime it seemed prohibition had transformed the cities into battlegrounds between opposing bootlegging gangs. In a study of over 30 major U.S cities during the prohibition years of 1920 and 1921, the number of crimes increased by 24%. Additionally, theft and burglaries increased by 9%, homicide by 12.7%, assaults and battery rose by 13%, drug addiction by 44.6% and police department costs rose by 11.4%. It has been speculated that this was largely the result of “black-market violence” as well as law enforcing resources having been diverted elsewhere.
Despite the beliefs of the prohibitionist movement that by outlawing alcohol crime would surely be reduced,the reality was that the Volstead act lead to worse social conditions than were experienced prior to prohibition as demonstrated by more lethal forms of alcohol, increased crime rates, and the establishment of a black market dominated by criminal organizations.
Furthermore, stronger liquor surged in popularity because its potency made it more profitable to smuggle. To prevent bootleggers from using industrial ethyl alcohol to produce illegal beverages, the government ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols. In response, bootleggers hired chemists who successfully re-natured the alcohol to make it drinkable. As a response, the Treasury Department required manufacturers to add more deadly poisons, including the particularly deadly methyl alcohol. New York City medical examiners prominently opposed these policies because of the danger to human life. As many as 10,000 people died from drinking denatured alcohol before Prohibition ended. Many of those who were poisoned as a result united to sue the government for reparations after the end of Prohibition.
Organizations against Prohibition (for example: the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment (AAPA)) lead the fight for change against the Volstead Act to protect the tradition of individual freedom. So, in 1933 when the new President, F.D. Roosevelt was elected, the Congress pass the 21st Amendment which would repeal the 18th Amendment.
Other greats way to get an educational message to a large number of people is by writing a “letter to the editor”, creating a blog, or commenting on news articles on the web about the issue. NAHITA uses all of these tactics, and you can, too. Try submitting letters to local newspapers and magazines—keep them factual, short in length and unemotional. Also, keep in mind that the letter should be relative to something the publication has recently covered (or it’s unlikely to be printed). If they do print your letter, you’ll not only inform members of the public, you might just catch the attention of legislators, too.Learn more about issues pending in your state and in Congress.