If a person is considered an adult and have the privilege of voting at the age of 18, should they also have the privilege to drink? One California man from the Bay area, Terrance Lynn is saying yes, and the California Secretary of State’s Office is listening. They have paved the way for California voters to lower the drinking age from 21 years old to 18 years old. That is of course if supporters are able to collect 365,880 valid signatures by April 26 2016. If Lynn and his supports are able to gather the needed amount of valid signatures then Californians can expect to see the “Minimum Drinking Age Initiative Statute” on the November, 2016 ballot.
Prior to 1984, states differed on the legal drinking age. That, however, changed with the passing of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984. While states were not legally mandated to change their legal drinking age to 21 under the Act, states that did not were at risk for forgoing federal highway funds. Consequently all states raised their drinking age to 21 if they had not already.
Proponents argue that it has not stopped teen drinking, but rather pushed underage binge drinking into private and uncontrolled environments, leading to more health and life endangering behavior of underage drinkers. Therefore, the decrease in drunken driving fatalities can not reliably be credited to the states raising the legal drinking age to 21.
What about the people opposed to this initiative? Opponents argue that teens have not yet reached an age where they can handle alcohol responsibly, and are more likely to harm or even kill themselves or someone else by drinking prior to the age of 21. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has long advocated for maintaining the current legal drinking age at 21. In their argument they cite a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimate from 2008 that the current minimum drinking age of 21 decreased the number of fatal traffic accidents for 18 to 20 year olds by 13% and saved approximately 27,052 lives from 1975 to 2008.
Recovering alcoholic Jerry Hall of KeepIt21.com started drinking at age 15 and hopes the initiative fails. Hall states “You’re going to end up with more drunk drivers. You’re going to end up with more kids in detox and in recovery homes. You’re going to end up with much higher costs to society. It’s just not worth it for the few million you can get in revenue from alcohol,”
Officials have stated in their official review that if the drinking age were lowered in the state from 21 to 18, California could lose about $200 million each year in federal highway funds. However, there would be increased state and local tax revenues due to the expected increase in alcohol sales to the additional young drinkers. Californians believe the state and local taxes area already to high and don’t want to risk any increases because people want to drink at an earlier age.
Although many believe that anyone under the age of 21 is prohibited from consuming alcohol in the United States, underage drinking is in fact legal in 29 states, to learn more, click here.
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