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May 19, 2010

Minimum Drinking Age is Unconstitutional and Does More Harm Than Good

21drinking Did you know that almost every country has a minimum drinking age of 18, if they even have one at all. Did you also know that the minimum drinking age in the United States was always 18 until 1984? The law almost didn't pass because there was a very heated fight in Congress over passing this law and it mostly came into effect due to the lobbying efforts of Candy Lightner and the Mothers Against Drunk Driving organization (MADD).

Before I even get to the arguments why this law is unconstitutional for a couple of reasons, I need to speak to the more practical problems with this law and why it doesn't work. The main reason is that 18-21 year olds are going to drink no matter what the law is. The law isn't preventing teen drinking, it is just making teens find devious ways to do it.

Back in the day, when I was college aged, the regular place that we hung out when we got together was in bars. Some of us drank a lot and some barely at all. It was just a place where a large group could go and meet up. Now, many teens, especially college students, want to get together and hang out in this atmosphere and to do so they have resorted to fake I.D.s Before 9/11 this was not such a terrible offense. However, the use of fake I.D.s has now been tied to terrorists, so anyone caught using one could face criminal charges. Why are we turning our kids into criminals?

College campuses used to have bars right on campus. No driving was required. The new drinking age has closed down college campus bars and forced students to drive to be able to drink. How does that help prevent drunk driving? And teens that live at home hide their drinking from their parents, which prevents parents from helping if their child is in trouble.

One reason that the minimum drinking age law of 21 is unconstitutional is because this is one of the areas that the constitution says that each state should decide for itself. As a democrat, I can't believe I am arguing for states rights, but this is a valid argument that has caused other laws to be stuck down as unconstitutional.

The other argument, that I found most persuasive, is that of age discrimination. The United States has always considered anyone 18 years and older an adult. How can a group that can marry, vote and fight in a war, not be allowed to buy alcohol or go to a bar? During the Senate confirmation hearings for the minimum drinking age law, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt. exclaimed, "Why the magic age of 21? Why not 25? How about 30, 35, 40?"

What if a study was done that showed that a higher percentage of people from a minority group caused a larger amount of drunk driving accidents? Could a law ever be passed, much less suggested, that made it illegal for, say, women or Asians to drink? Why is it okay to discriminate this way against only this one group of adults?

There are so many better ways to help prevent drunk driving than a discriminatory law. How about more education on the dangers of drinking and driving throughout high school and college? How about tougher laws for those of every age that get caught driving drunk? For more information, see the Choose Responsibility website, a non-profit organization organized by President Emeritus John M. McCardell Jr. of Middlebury College and the Robertson Foundation.

This is not about advocating drinking. And I am as against drinking and driving as anyone, if not more. I just think that these problems are not going to be resolved by discriminating against a small group that is not represented in Congress. We have to crack down on drunk driving in other ways. Please stop turning our youth into criminals when all they want is to have the same rights that almost everyone 18 and older around the world has, and what their parents were had when they were 18.

Original 50-something Moms Blog Post by Jennifer Wagner who also writes at the New York Parenting Teens Examiner and Connect with your Teens through Pop Culture and Technology. Jennifer also has a law degree from New York University.

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