Dispensary Construction Unearths Remnants of Alcohol Prohibition


In a symbolic twist of fate, a construction team building a new medical cannabis dispensary unearthed more than they bargained for when they uncovered Prohibition-era whiskey barrels used to traffic the contraband. In similar fashion, prohibition on cannabis is currently crumbling in the US, state by state.

In St. Louis, Missouri, a medical cannabis dispensary plans to open its latest flagship location on April 16. The new dispensary is located in The Grove, a well-known business corridor that runs through St. Louis. But during construction, they learned that they are building directly over a speakeasy that most likely flourished during Prohibition years.

Cissell Mueller, a real estate company, was involved with the project. The new location was once an empty warehouse, and during the demolition process, builders found “a hidden whiskey barrel that could be accessed by removing a few bricks to draw the whiskey out,” Cissell Mueller’s Project Administrator Morgan Stearn told Fox 2. “It was exciting to find this piece of history, possibly hidden during the Prohibition era, and to envision the evolution into a modern dispensary.” 

During Prohibition, hiding whiskey inside walls was not only unheard of, but typical. Sometimes it was hidden in bottles, or barrels with spigots. Speakeasies at the time were more or less a hidden back room, sometimes with creative ways to enter such as levers and false bookshelves.

The 7,500-square-foot-storefront medical cannabis dispensary is located on Manchester Avenue in St. Louis. Local street artist Jayvn Soloman designed a custom mural that visitors can see on the outside of the storefront.

Prohibition on alcohol lasted from January 17, 1920 to December 5, 1933—amid the Great Depression. Less than four years later, the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 kicked off federal prohibition on cannabis in the US, which lasts into today. 

“The noble experiment” of Prohibition was more or less a failed experiment, as Americans cheered in the streets when it ended. The same could happen with cannabis, if and when federal action takes place. Today, some dispensary chains such as The Syndicate in Southern California incorporate secret bookcase entrances fashioned after speakeasies.

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