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Why These Three States Might Soon Lower The Legal Drinking Age

'18 year olds have nearly every burden and privilege of adults...except the right to drink alcohol.'

In July 1984, President Reagan signed the the National Minimum Drinking Age Act into law, which mandated that states raise the drinking age to 21. Though Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) claims the law has saved more than 25,000 lives, many Millennials have taken issue with the law, which is still in effect 30 years later. But for how much longer?

Bearded beer enthusiast I found on Getty Images, gazing longingly at his brew.

Just last week, Rep. Max Abramson of New Hampshire introduced a bill that "would allow 18-to-20-year-olds to drink anywhere, as long as they were accompanied by someone over the age of 21," with one caveat -- they cannot consume hard liquor (leaving beer and wine on the table). "Every other western country has a drinking age of 19 or lower, and their teenage alcoholism rates are lower," Abramson told Seacostonline.com.

Since the bill is in its nascency, it's hard to tell if it'll gain any traction. New Hampshire isn't alone, though -- in California, "a proposed ballot initiative that would lower the minimum legal drinking age in the state from 21 to 18 has been cleared to begin collecting signatures," according to a report from KTLA .

"The measure’s proponent, Terrance Lynn, has 180 days — until April 26, 2016 — to collect 365,880 signatures in order for the initiative to qualify for the ballot," KTLA reports. If he gets enough signatures, Californians will vote on it in November, 2016.

On his website, Lynn said that although lowering the drinking age might cost the state to lose some its federal highway funding (per the National Minimum Drinking Age Act's stipulation), it's ultimately a "civil rights issue."

"This is about equal rights," he said. "18 year olds have nearly every burden and privilege of adults...except the right to drink alcohol. This is a misguided aberration from 1984 that should be corrected."

For similar reasons, Rep. Phyllis Kahn of Minnesota introduced two bills last year to lower the drinking age in her state: One would "lower the drinking age in bars and restaurants to 18," while the other would "allow underage people to drink in bars and restaurants if accompanied by a parent or guardian or spouse who is of legal age," according to the Pioneer Press.

"It's a very good way to deal with the serious problem of binge drinking, particularly on college campuses," Kahn told the outlet. She also believes there's a loophole that would allow the state to lower the drinking age without facing any legal or financial penalty.

According to the Pioneer Press, "Kahn said that in its 2012 ruling on the Medicaid expansion requirement in the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. Supreme Court established that the federal government can't threaten to withhold funding to compel states to act in a certain way. To her, that means states can change the drinking age without forfeiting federal dollars."

It's unclear how seriously any of these ideas will be taken, or how far they'll go in their states' legislative houses. Regardless, they definitely raise some important questions about the efficacy and modernity of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act.

H/T The Foundation for Economic Education


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