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.