Lowering Minimum Drinking Age
Alcohol will always be part of human’s life. It has served its medical benefits since it was discovered. It was used before as an antiseptic for wounds and as a tonic for the sick (Powell10). It was then also discovered that it has capacity to lower the risks of heart diseases. Some people also drink alcohol to relieve their stress. Since then, alcohol was widely known as a legal drug.
Alcohol has also become a normal part of social life (Powell 5). In ancient time, alcohol drinking alcohol was the means to celebrate their success in a war. In any festivity, alcohol is the major beverage served. In other words, social life is boring without alcohol. At present, people celebrate their memorable events with drinking alcohol. In a wedding, for example, a toast of alcohol has become a formal part of the wedding reception. In every party, alcohol always serves as the most exciting factor. Through these, many drinking establishments has bombarded the city. Since then, drinking alcohol has become a normal part of everyday life. Even the young people engaged in drinking alcohol until 1984 when the law set the minimum age of 21 as the drinking age. Many argued this law because it has deprived many of the enjoyment to drink alcohol at least at age 18 where child has gained his maturity.
After the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was enacted, the debate on whether the law is discriminatory as to the age or not. Many also argue lobby that the minimum age be lowered to 18. At the age of 18, when a person is considered grown- up, he or she obtains privileges that a state can legally offer. At age 18, one can exercise his right to vote, to marry, and to enter the military service. In addition, they can drive their own car and they can enter into contracts legally. Moreover, a person who has been held for a criminal offense will be penalized similar to the punishments given on adults because they are no longer considered minors. Moreover, at the age of 18, a person is considered to have his or state of maturity and discernment and above all, to have reached his legal status. However, they are not allowed to drink unless they turn 21.
The privileges offered to an 18- year old, above all, carry with them the responsibilities in drinking alcohol. Besides, in almost all nations, the drinking age was fixed to 18 while other nations did not fixed any minimum age. It is also an absurdity to prohibit drinking champagne to an 18- year old couple. Moreover, despite the law, the persistence and the thirst of the young people below 21 year of age to alcohol cannot be controlled. For these reasons, it is best to lower the minimum drinking age from 21 to 18.
The Constitution does not expressly lay down provisions on drinking age. However, it has impliedly recognized age 18 as having a legal status through laws and jurisprudence. However, the Constitution has clearly stated the separation of the three bodies of the government, namely, the judiciary, executive and legislative departments (Jacobs 175). Moreover, the state government is independent with the federal government as far as the administrative and legislative functions are concerned. In addition, it is fundamental that laws shall not be discriminatory regardless of age. On these bases, the National Minimum Drinking Act of 1984 can be questioned on matter of its constitutionality.
One of the provisions of the law states among others that unless the states promulgate the minimum drinking age, there will be no reduction on the federal highway fund (Association for a Society Free from Age Restrictions). The law has also received various criticisms on the basis that the Constitution did not delegate the power to regulate the consumption and purchase of alcohol on the federal government (Association for a Society Free from Age Restrictions). Moreover, according to Alex koroknay Palicz, the law is unconstitutional because it is discriminatory to age and it mandates the state to comply with the federal government (Association for a Society Free from Age Restrictions). Therefore, the law should be reviewed on the grounds of its constitutionality.
The Committee on Ways and Means, Legislation, and Senate Committee would be the appropriate bodies that would lobby the lowering of the minimum drinking age (United States House of Representatives). The issue has also been studied and has furthered the amendment of the law. In addition, in the Senate Committee, the issue has already been discussed through the effort of Vermont Senator Hinda Miller (Guardian). There are also other states who are working to effectively legislate the lowering of the drinking age to 18 like Kentucky, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Missouri, and Minnesota (Guardian). Some of the states have already introduced legislation regarding the matter.
At present, no presidential nominees have a clear position on the issue for obvious reasons. Moreover, the legislation has not yet achieved great public support. The study on the law has just started with the effort of Democrat Senator Hinda Miller (CBS News) and has been regarded by other states. It would be advantageous to work with the Democrats regarding the issue for they have already perceived the problem. Furthermore, former President Ronald Reagan’s first stand on the issue could be reconsidered by the next president. Notably, when the bill was being proposed, former Pres. Reagan questioned it because it could be a violation to the rights of the states.
There are cases decided by the Supreme Court involving the minimum drinking age but it concentrated its decision within the contents of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act. In South Dakota v. Dole (483 U.S. 203), the court decided that the violation of the minimum drinking age may be validly used by Congress in its spending power (Jacobs175). This decision could weaken the argument on lowering the minimum drinking age. However, in reviewing the case, the court recognized the question whether Congress lacks the power to impose a national minimum drinking age (Jacobs 175). Although, it was not decided by the court, it may be raised as defense in future cases.
In short, at present, it would be hard to win the court’s favor on lowering the drinking age but the legality of the law can be raised before it.
Aside from the efforts of some Democrats personalities, the National Youth Rights Association (NYRA) has also been fighting for the civil rights of the young people since its incorporation in 1998 (Youthrights.com). One of their objectives is the lowering of the minimum drinking age to 18. Their supporters on this cause have reached a great number enough to invite the Congress to review the law.
The general public is divided on the issue of lowering the drinking age. Most mothers support the law while the younger generations and the military men want it abolished. Both sides have their own argument but a sense of impracticality can reverse it. According to John McCardell Jr., Middlebury College President, the 21-year-old drinking age is a bad social policy and a terrible law (New Tork Times). His statement has reached the general public and has strengthened the move to review the law.
Moreover, when the law was enacted, underage drinking was not deterred. According to Hanson, most of the vehicular accidents due to drunkenness involve males who are 25-35 years of age (Alcohol Problem and Solutions). In other words, the law is not effective in avoiding the vehicular accidents due to drunkenness and there is no basis to increase the drinking age to 21. Instead, another law shall be enacted to regulate and impose a heavier penalty to those driving while drunk.
The rights of the young people who have reached their legal status shall be granted by giving them their right to drink alcohol. The law is clearly discriminatory. While people of legal age may exercise other rights with greater responsibility, they are deprived with their right to drink alcohol which entails a lesser responsibility. Therefore, it is best to lower the minimum drinking age to 18.
“Committees.” (2008). House of Representatives. 30 May 2008 ;http://www.house.gov/Welcome.shtml;.
“Drinking and Driving.” (2008). Alcohol Problems and Solutions. 30 May 2008 ;http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/DrinkingAndDriving.html;.
Jacobs, J. B. Drunk Driving: An American Dilemma. University of Chicago Press, 1989.
“Legislative Analysis for the National minimum Drinking Age Act.” (2008). Association for a Society Free from Age Restrictions. 30 May
“National Youth Rights Association.” (2008). Youthrights. 30 May 2008 ;http://www.youthrights.org/whatwevedone.php;.
Powell, J. Alcohol. Black Rabbit Books, 2005.
“US states consider lowering drinkng age.” (2008). Guardian. 30 May 2008 ;http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/apr/18/usa;.
“South Dakota V. Dole.” (2008). Justia. 30 May 2008 ;http://supreme.justia.com/us/483/203/case.html;.
“Vermont Considers Lowering Drinking Age to 18.” (2005). New York Times. 30 May 2008
“Vt. To Consider Lowering Drinking.” (2008). CBS News. 30 May 2008 ;http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/02/29/national/main3891547.shtml? source=related_story;.