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2016 Election - Lowering the Minimum Drinking Age From 21 to 18

In 1984, the enactment of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was fully accepted by all 50 states, and the drinking age has been 21 ever since.  Although there are some caveats in each state (for example, some states allow drinking in the home under parental supervision for those under 21), this has been the standard for 22 years.  In this year’s election, three states (California, Minnesota & New Hampshire) have decided to introduce a proposal to lower the minimum drinking age to 18.  Here is a breakdown of each state’s proposal.

  • New Hampshire:  The proposed house bill in New Hampshire is sponsored by Republican Max Abramson.  The driving force behind the bill is to dampen the binge drinking culture that is so prevalent in American society by allowing young adults between the ages of 18 and 21 to consume beer and wine in the presence of someone over the age of 21.  They are pointing toward European culture, which allows young adults to become introduced to beer and wine in a more casual setting at a younger age, therefore lowering the levels of underage binge drinking.
  • Minnesota:  This bill is slightly different – it would allow people over the age of 18 to drink any alcohol, but only in restaurants or bars.  Again, the hope with this bill is to reduce binge drinking for young adults by encouraging them to practice responsible consumption in public places.  People would still have to be over 21 to purchase alcohol from liquor or grocery stores.  They are emulating a similar law in Wisconsin, where young adults between the ages of 18 and 21 can consume alcohol as long as they are with a parent or legal guardian.  The governor opposes the bill, however, stating that he believes the legal age should remain 21.
  • California:  Rather than a bill, California has a ballot initiative that would directly allow young adults 18 and over to purchase and consume alcohol legally.  Since this initiative doesn’t have any financial backing, it could cause California to lose up to $200 million in highway funds from the federal government, because they will be in violation of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act by lowering their minimum drinking age completely to the age of 18.  However, some of the estimates show that the measure could increase the sales tax revenue to make up for some of the lost funds.

Beyond these three states, the majority of Americans have come to recognize that 21 years of age is the law when it comes to drinking.  No matter what the outcome is in this election, staying compliant with ID checks and responsible sales training will continue to be important elements of a restaurant and liquor store’s business.  If you have questions regarding these bills and ballot initiatives or anything else regarding compliance checks for the sale of alcohol, please feel free to reach out to us.  Email us today at customerservice@barsprogram.com or call us at 1-877-540-5500.

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