Drinking age is ‘ridiculous,’ lower it to 18

Jeremy Stull

I turn 21 this week.

Quite exciting actually, even though I’ve never been big on birthday celebrations. Usually dinner with my family and a gift card or two from my aunts and uncles is enough for me. But 21 is a big birthday that deserves a big celebration, as all college kids know.

There are two hang-ups I have with this upcoming day, though. One, I’m the oldest of my friends in my room and in the older half of my core group of friends. There are ways to go out without being 21, but not everybody is keen on risking that. So now I’ll be of legal age to purchase and consume alcohol in the United States and I’ll want to take advantage of that and hit up some bars, but a lot of my friends will be left behind. I don’t want to do that.

There is nothing to do about that first point. People are born at different times – I can’t really be mad about that. This second point is what really irks me. I studied in Great Britain for a semester, and spent some time in Spain over the summer. In Britain, Spain and all the countries I visited while I was abroad, the drinking age was 18 for liquor, and often 16 for beer and wine.

I now come back to the United States, after being deemed responsible enough by the European Union to purchase and consume alcohol, and am told I have to wait to do those things legally. Let’s do a quick run through of things that people under 21 are allowed to do in the United States. Buy lottery tickets, drive a car, work full-time, rent a hotel room, represent their country in international sporting arenas, run for school board, be put out of their parents’ home and expected to be a fully functioning member of society, get a loan to buy a house, vote in any election, and serve in the military.

The last one is what really gets me. An 18-year-old can enlist, go through basic training, complete a tour of duty in one of the various conflict zones the United States is currently engaged in, and upon returning home will then be told by that same government that he cannot legally sit down and have a beer with his dinner.

I find this law to be ridiculous. It’s insane. My proposal is to lower the drinking age to 18, decriminalize marijuana (or at least have some sensible policy, see last week’s Chronicle), and keep the driving age at 16. When an individual is between the ages of 18 and 21, anything but a 0.02 on a breathalyzer while operating a motor vehicle will still be an offense. There is a maturity level that not everybody has at 18, and we need to think about and protect other people. There are plenty of 18-year-old individuals who are functioning members of society that deserve the right to purchase and consume alcohol legally.