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In 1984 President Reagan signed the Uniform Drinking Age Act, requiring all states to raise the legal drinking age to 21 or face reductions in their federal highway funding. Since 1995, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have complied.

Turning Back the Clock

But now, Minnesota lawmakers are considering legislation that would roll back the state’s legal drinking age to 18. State Representative Phyllis Kahn has proposed legislation that would allow individuals over 18 to be served alcohol in bars and restaurants. The bill would still ban retail sales of alcohol for people under 21.

Kahn—whose district area includes the University of Minnesota—argues that serving alcohol to young adults in public would teach them to drink responsibly and reduce binge drinking. And she notes that the measure would be good for the economy as it would likely increase sales in bars and restaurants.

18 vs. 21

Supporters claim that many 18- to 20-year-olds already drink, especially on college campuses, and making alcohol legally available to this group could decrease the “forbidden fruit” allure of drinking.

But critics point to studies linking a lower drinking age to increased traffic crashes and to research that shows teens and young adults respond more adversely to alcohol than older adults. In addition, MADD and the National Traffic Highway Administration (NHTSA) estimate that raising the drinking age to 21 nationally has saved approximately 900 lives per year.

If the bill is approved by the Minnesota legislature it will take effect in August.

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Sobering Up Administrator

Sobering Up Administrator

Sobering Up: A blog about drunk driving, alcohol addiction, and criminal justice, is anything but a corporate blog. Sobering Up is an opportunity for anyone interested or involved in the issues of drunk driving, alcohol-fueled crime, alcohol dependence and addiction, and the justice system to participate in the conversation.


  1. I’m curious that there doesn’t seem to be any discussion on limiting those under 21 to consuming 3.2% alcohol. Thirty years ago the thinking was that by making alcohol with lower alcohol concentrations available to younger people, it would be difficult to get as intoxicated. Drinking 3.2% beer, you’d have to consume a lot more liquid in order to reach the same level of intoxication as 6.0 or more. The thought of this law going in to effect right when colleges start the fall semester is concerning, as well.

  2. Being in the substance abuse field fro the last 22 years i have seen a lot of teenage drinking. The reality is the only thing the law does is keep people under 21 out of the bars. Parents allow their teenagers to drink all the time, much to my dismay. We have the technology to install breathalyzers in cars for young drivers, totally eliminating drunk driving accidents or for that matter drunk driving for that age group. So lowering the drinking age to a reasonable number such as 18, allowing college kids to drink in bars rather than swig bottles of vodka in dorm rooms because that is what their friends were able to get their hands on is a much more reasonable solution to the problem. It has never made sense to me to instill a law that only keeps teen agers from drinking in bars rather than keeping teenagers safe. Think about all of the over drinking and damage done to and by teenagers drinking “secretively” allow them out of the closet. We know they are drinking anyway. We still need to talk about encouraging parents to not allow 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17 year olds to drink. 21 is unreasonable and it is not even close to reality for the teenagers of today. Breathalyzers in the cars of 18 year olds solves the MADD argument of accidents and drunk driving. NEXT

  3. I’d say reducing the legal drinking age from 21 to 18 is a bad idea as “young adults” typically do not have the maturity to make sounds decisions. But, if you can buy a gun, or cigs, vote, or join the military at 18, I’m not sure why alcohol would be any different.

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