Thursday, July 8, 2010

Guam Raises Drinking Age to 21

We didn't think this would actually happen, but it did.  On July 8, 2010, the bill that raised the drinking age to 21 was unfortunately signed into law at noon.  This new law, effective immediately with no grandfather clause, criminalizes the purchase and possession of alcohol by anyone under 21, just like it was for those under 18 before, except that 18-20 year olds are still allowed to work in bars and sell/serve alcohol.  Selling to anyone under 21 is illegal now as well. 

This time, they did not even leave it up to the people.  (Not like those over 21 really should have a say as to what legal but outvoted young adults 18-20 put into their own bodies, especially if those over 21 are allowed to do it themeslves, but it still was elitist for the legislature to go over the people's heads.) It was passed unanimously by the Guam Senate with almost no debate at all, in spite of the fact that referenda for raising the drinking age in previous years (such as 2006) had failed.  What little discussion occurred was primarily recycled and often outdated junk science from the mainland, combined with shaky (but emotional) anecdotal evidence from Guam.  The deck was stacked, and the opposition didn't stand a chance.

We predict that, based on research we have previously cited, no lives will be saved as a result of this draconian law, at least not in the long run.  They would have been better off getting tougher on DUI and raising the alcohol taxes than punshing all 18-20 year olds for the actions of the few.  Like we previously noted, 94% of the island's DUI problem consists of drivers over 21, and would still remain even if they could somehow prevent everyone from drinking until 21.  On the mainland, roughly 90% of young adults will drink before 21 despite the drinking age, so even that is just wishful thinking. 

Also, this will most likely hurt Guam's economy, dependent on tourism as they are.  Looks like tourism will probably decrease over there, while it will likely increase in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, the last two places in the USA in which 18-20 year olds are allowed to drink legally, and no passport required.  Fiji learned this the hard way in 2006-2009, when their drinking age was briefly 21.  They have since lowered it as a result, and the sky did not fall.  Thus, we hope the leaders of Guam will come to their senses within a few years as well after seeing that the costs of an unrealistically high drinking age outweigh any possible benefits.

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