Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Looks promising for South Carolina (Updated)

Two recent lower (county level) court rulings have declared South Carolina's drinking age of 21 unconstitutional. The state's constitution says that “Every citizen who is eighteen years of age or older ... shall be ... endowed with full legal rights and responsibilities, provided that the General Assembly may restrict the sale of alcoholic beverages to persons until age twenty-one.” (emphasis added). Also cited was a SC Supreme Court decision in May 2008 that struck down a law banning handgun possession by 18-20 year olds. If these rulings are upheld on appeal, then the age for possession and consumption of alcohol would automatically revert to 18, like it was 25 years ago. But the age for sale would remain 21, unless the legislature decides to lower it. And the results of the court cases would only be binding in the affected counties unless the SC Supreme Court upholds the appeal as well.

However, the legislature could always change the state constitution, but only with voter approval.

While limited, this is clearly a step in the right direction. Domino effect you say? One can only hope.

UPDATE: We may have spoken too soon. On August 26, 2009, a circuit court upheld the drinking age of 21, unfortunately. The judge said it would create an "absurd result" to allow possession and consumption, but not sale, to 18-20 year olds. (But the SC constitution clearly says "sale" and nothing about possession or consumption). Honestly, the real absurdity is the fact that 18-20 year old legal adults are allowed to go to war, vote, get married, raise kids, and even (as of 2008) carry handguns in SC, but not drink--period. And we (the USA) stand alone among the developed world in maintaining this absurdity.

However, the latest ruling can still be appealed further if so desired, possibly all the way to the Supreme Court. It is too early to throw in the towel just yet.

The drinking age must be lowered, in the interest of justice. What better time than now?

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