Friday, February 19, 2010

Vermont Debates the Drinking Age

The Vermont legislature is currently debating whether or not to lower the drinking age to 18.  And we hope they choose to do so.  Someone's gotta go first, and Vermont's independent streak will make them a good choice.

For those who don't know, Vermont was the first state (except the 10 states that were 18 since the 1930s) to lower the drinking age from 21 to 18 in 1971, along with the voting age and age of majority.  This remained the case until 1986, when it was raised back to 21 due to federal coercion.  Actually, Governor Richard Snelling flat-out refused to raise the drinking age in spite of the highway funding penalty, vetoing several bills, and thought that it would be better to actually get tougher on drunk driving and improve alcohol education.  It was not until they got a new governor that the state finally sold out and it was raised. 

Interestingly, Vermont in 2008 actually had zero under-21 drunk driving fatalities, down from 14 in 1982.  Of course, that's easy for a state with a population of only 621,760.  And the decline began at least four years before the drinking age was raised.   This is in spite of their proximity to Quebec (where the drinking age is 18), the state's rural nature, and its above-average "binge" drinking rate.  Since the pretext for raising the drinking age in the 1980s was reducing drunk driving, many of the state's 18-20 year olds are probably now wondering, "Can we have our civil liberties back now?"

Most states either hate guns or hate gays.  Vermont, however, uniquely tolerates them both.  And if they lower the drinking age to 18, they will truly be the most free state in the country.  Even freer than their neighbor New Hampshire, the one with the motto "Live Free or Die," which also happens to be the motto of the True Spirit of America Party.

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