A BRIEF HISTORY OF ALCOHOL IN AMERICA
Let's face it. Our great nation was founded by drinkers. Many of whom drank enough that by today's standards they would be considered "frequent binge drinkers" or worse. The amount of alcohol consumed while the Constitution was being written was staggering (pun intended), hence all the (supposed) loopholes in the document. Hell, even the Puritans drank--they brought more beer than water with them on the Mayflower!
Being British, beer was the drink of choice for the early colonists and remains the number one alcoholic beverage in America to this day, though in the 1600s a new Caribbean drink made from the sugarcane byproducts (molasses and cane juice) grew in popularity. It was rum. George Washington was a big fan of it. However, the British restrictions on rum from the Caribbean led to its decline, and its being supplanted by American whiskey. Whiskey was easier and cheaper to transport than the corn from which it was made. Distilled spirits in general were considered aqua vitae, or water of life (in Latin). Indeed, alcohol was often just as important as life itself to the colonists.
But this tolerance toward alcohol was by no means universal. In many colonies, whites were often forbidden from selling alcohol to blacks, whether free or slave. And Native Americans were often hypocritically viewed as too "savage" to drink, despite the fact that white settlers often got them drunk to facilitate cheating them out of their land (failing that, brute force was used).
The Early Republic
By 1790, Americans were drinking, on average, three times what we do now per capita. In 1791, Alexander Hamilton put a tax on whiskey (and other distilled spirits, but not beer or wine) ostensibly to pay down the national debt, which led to the Whiskey Rebellion by farmers in southwest Pennsylvania. They were mad that the cheapest way to transport corn (turning it into whiskey) had now become relatively expensive, and that small producers were taxed more than larger ones. So the farmers revolted. Shots were fired, and a tax collector was even tarred and feathered. George Washington sent in 13,000 troops to quash the rebellion, but the instigators were eventually pardoned. Unlike the Boston Tea Party, it failed miserably. And that, my friends, is the real reason why alcohol (especially hard liquor) is taxed today, but not tea or coffee.
Our national anthem, the Star-Spangled Banner, was simply an 1814 poem by Francis Scott Key set to the tune of a popular British drinking song. Why do you think it has so many octaves? If you could sing it and stay on key, you were assumed to be sober enough for another round.
Attitudes toward alcohol varied throughout American history. Originally it was considered a gift from God, while its abuse was generally condemned. Even children drank beer and cider. But that gradually changed with the newly-created temperance movement. As alcohol problems grew in the late 1700s and early 1800s, so to did the temperance movement, who originally focused on "ardent" spirits (hard liquor) as opposed to beer and wine, and for voluntarily reducing or giving up alcohol. The mid-1800s was when the movement really gained strength, and so did social reformers of other causes. There was an alliance between the burgeoning first-wave feminist movement, temperance, abolitionism, and several other movements that lasted for decades. Industrialization helped to fuel the anti-alcohol sentiment, as did the lack of a national consensus on what constituted responsible drinking. Various churches signed on and tinkered with the established theology of the time, now speciously claiming (with zero evidence) that Jesus did not drink wine, but grape juice instead. By the end of the 19th century, the pendulum had swung toward America being alcohol-negative, meaning that the problems associated with its abuse were blamed on the substance itself rather than the abuse thereof. This view continues to this day, albeit in a slightly different form.
The first anti-alcohol laws in America were the "Black Codes," the forerunners of the Jim Crow laws. Both of these sets of laws prohibited drinking, gun ownership, and various other things specifically by black people, and even gave them a curfew. Sound familiar?
The drunkest decade in American history was from 1900-1910. Many people, mostly men, regularly went to their local saloons to get sloshed. These relatively unregulated establishments often offered other vices, like gambling, prostitution, and cockfighting (George Washington would have liked the latter one). But hey, at least they provided free food! And there was no drinking age either, except in Wisconsin. Not like America had a drinking age before, of course.
Then the most ominous five words were uttered, the ones that often open up a major can of worms: "Something has to be done!" And so, the temperance movement became the Prohibition movement, seeking to ban all alcohol period. Groups like the fanatical Anti-Saloon league led by Carrie Nation were founded (though today's MADD would probably make them blush!), and the movement grew. Prohibitionists played on the ubiquitous anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic, and even anti-Semitic prejudices of the day to attract more followers, and that tactic was successful in getting recruits who would otherwise just be sitting on the fence. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK), having been reborn in 1915, also ardently supported the prohibition movement.
Prohibition began in Kansas and Oklahoma when they entered the Union dry from day one. From 1910-1919, several states went dry on their own as well. During World War I, the feds decided to enact "wartime Prohibition" that would take effect in 1919, but the war had ended in 1918. So the Prohibitionists went all the way this time. They passed a Constitutional amendment (the 18th Amendment) that would take effect in 1920, one year after passage. This was followed by the Volstead Act, its companion federal law, which was vetoed by President Wilson but overridden by Congress. The law prohibited the sale, manufacturing, furnishing, delivery, and transportation (but not specifically use) of "intoxicating liquor," which was defined as any beverage with 0.5% alcohol or more. Though an exception was later made for home winemaking. Other exceptions included alcohol for industrial or medical use, and wine for religious use. Advocates of Prohibition believed that crime and other social ills would disappear as a result of banning booze. Some communities even sold their jails, believing they would become obsolete. Boy, were they wrong!
The Roaring Twenties was a crazy time in history, hence the name. Though many scholars believe that alcohol consumption (along with drunk and disorderly arrests, cirrhosis deaths, and possibly even drunk driving fatalities) declined significantly during the first two years, they note that it was already declining before 1920, and after 1922 it began rising again. Moonshining became an art form. Bootleggers and speakeasies were the order of the day. In fact, they grew so much that there were eventually double the number of speakeasies than there were saloons before Prohibition! Thus, the effective "outlet density" doubled as a result of Prohibition. But unlike saloons, illegal speakeasies were decidedly co-ed, and women began drinking like never before. Speakeasies were not exactly safe either, as one was inevitably in the company of rather dodgy characters far away from the presence of any police or security. Someone could easily slip you a Mickey Finn and take full advantage of you, or simply massive amounts of booze would have had the same effect. You also had to worry about the potency and even purity of the hooch being sold, as it was often adulterated or contaminated with toxic substances. Not surprisingly, alcohol poisoning cases increased nearly fourfold from 1920 to 1925. Crime rates also skyrocketed, reaching a peak in 1933, and alcohol was controlled by organized crime. In fact, Prohibition was the main reason the Mafia got as powerful as they did. Society became corrupted as otherwise law-abiding citizens were now criminals, and even the police took kickbacks from the organized crime elements of the day.
Interestingly, teen drinking was found to have increased as well, an apparent unintended consequence of banning alcohol for everyone. Speakeasies routinely sold to minors, and obviously did not ask for ID. This was the start of a secular trend that would more or less continue unabated until 1979. Remember that before Prohibition, the majority of states had no legal drinking age at all.
In addition, use of substitutes for alcohol also increased. These included cannabis, tobacco, coffee, patent medicines, cocaine, opiates, and ether. One favorite was "paint remover," which was industrial alcohol that was required by law to be denatured with methanol, a poison that can cause blindness or even death in relatively small amounts. Another was "ginger jake," a patent medicine that was eventually adulterated (to fool regulators) with a neurotoxic plasticizer that often caused paralysis.
Consumption patterns changed dramatically as well. Almost no one went to a speakeasy and had just one or two beers to relax. It was more like many, many shots worth of bathtub gin, moonshine, or whatever, with the intention to get completely wasted. Those who went through all that trouble to get in and pay high prices for low-quality booze wanted to make the most of it, and getting anything short of plastered was thus considered a waste of time and money. Hard liquor was more popular than beer because it was much easier to conceal. Since the illegal hooch was harsh-tasting, it was often mixed with soda, leading to the invention of the cocktail. That made it easier to stomach, and easy to drink quickly as well. Sound familiar?
At first, Prohibition was loosely enforced in most of the country, and had much popular support. But it was widely disobeyed, and thus enforcement increased dramatically from 1925 to 1932. All to no avail or course, as alcohol consumption and related problems continued to skyrocket, even during the depths of the Great Depression when people could barely afford food. Now, that really says something! More and more money was being spent on trying to enforce a largely unenforceable law that 70% of the population had turned against by 1933. It became obvious by then that Prohibition had a corrosive effect on society at large. Ironically, women (who were more likely than men to support Prohibition initially) turned against it in record numbers. The tide had turned. And so the law had to change.
In 1933, alcohol laws were first liberalized with the passage of the Cullen-Harrison Act in January, which legalized beer with less than 3.2% alcohol by weight (4% by volume). Full legalization at the federal level occurred on December 5, 1933, with the passage of the 21st Amendment. Upon legalization, crime rates plummeted. Per capita consumption increased modestly, but was already increasing before, so a causal relationship cannot possibly be drawn in this case. This amendment still allowed the states to decide for themselves how to regulate alcohol, and keep it illegal if they so desired. And 18 states continued Prohibition afterward, but all of them eventually legalized alcohol, with Mississippi (one of the first states to ban alcohol voluntarily in 1907) being the last state to do so in 1966. Most states still allow local governments to ban the sale of alcohol if they choose, and there are several dry towns and dry counties to this day (mostly rural ones in southern states).
The states that legalized alcohol varied in their methods of regulation. Some allowed it to be sold only by the state, while others allowes private enterprises to do so with a license to sell it. Some states had blue laws, others did not. Taxes varied as well. But the most salient method of regulation was by age, a fairly new concept at the time. Although all but one state (Wisconsin) had no drinking age before Prohibition, most states felt the need to have one, and it was seen as a reasonable compromise between no limit and continued total prohibition. The most commonly chosen age limit was 21, since that was the age of majority in nearly all states, but two states (New York and Louisiana) chose 18 instead in the 1930s. New York's justification for 18 was that 18-20 year olds would drink anyway, and it would be better for them not to be on the wrong side of the law. Eight other states and DC had split ages of 18 for beer and 21 for liquor (wine varied), especially in states that had major breweries. One chose 19, and two chose 20. Some states had no age limit at first, but then enacted one. (The age of majority was 21 because of a 600-year tradition in English Common Law that set that as the age of adulthood, most likely based originally on the age that a squire became a knight in the Middle Ages.)
The 1970s: Lowered Drinking Age to 18
These age limits remained fairly static until 1969, when the Vietnam War and the draft made it crystal clear that 18-20 year olds were hypocritically considered old enough to go to war, but not old enough to vote or drink in most states. Not only that, but in 1967 there was actually a federally-funded study of possible solutions to America's notorious drinking problem that recommended that, among other things, the drinking age be lowered to 18 in those states with higher ages--an common-sense idea that would be considered heresy by today's government. Even the National Council of Churches supported the report's recommendations. Maine and Nebraska were the first states to lower the drinking age to 20 in 1969, and further lowered a few years later. In 1970, Alaska lowered it to 19, and the following year Tennessee and Vermont lowered it to 18. In 1971, the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18, so most states lowered their age of majority and drinking age along with the voting age. Most lowered the drinking age to 18, though a few lowered it to 19, and Delaware lowered it to 20 and no further. The same happened in Canada as well. The age lowering occurred mainly from 1972-73, a few states did so in 1974, and Alabama was the last to lower it (the ordinary way) in 1975. Oklahoma lowered it in 1976 due to a court case that equalized the drinking age for men and women. The Baby Boomers were clearly a force to be reckoned with and those in power knew it. So by 1976, 30 states lowered their drinking ages, 8 were already 18, and the remaining 12 (including all three West Coast states) kept their drinking ages at 21 throughout for some reason.
Other changes occurred as well during this period. Many formerly monopoly states had privatized alcohol sales beginning in the 1960s. In 1978, President Carter legalized home-brewing of beer, which had remained illegal since prohibition due to a clerical error. Thus America's alcohol laws were now the most liberal they had been since 1920.
However, in 1975 the war was over, and by 1976 the sentiments toward teen drinking began to change. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety came out with a 1974 study of a small number of states that purportedly showed a modest increase in under-21 traffic fatalities as a result of lowering the drinking age. A few other studies came out around 1975-76 that used time-series data in a single state each, often with no comparison group, and appeared to reach the same conclusion, especially for "alcohol-related" fatalities. (Often with a strange love for raw numbers of fatalities rather than rates, even at a time when the youth population was exploding.) However, in at least one state that saw an increase (Michigan), the reporting methods had changed during that time. Most states, lowered age or not, saw a decrease in overall fatalities from 1970-75, with only a handful reporting an increase (including North Dakota, which remained at 21 throughout). And many of these increases were suspicious. The FARS database did not come out until 1975, so any data before that is bound to have problems. And "alcohol-involvement" was often merely subjective since few drivers were actually tested for BAC back then, so such figures are junk. Nearly all states, on the other hand, saw increases in fatalities from 1976-1980, followed by sharp decreases, including states that had kept the age at 21 throughout. Remember too that the blood alcohol limit for driving was 0.15 in most states, nearly double what it is now, and the laws against drunk driving were essentially toothless and loosely enforced. Drunk driving was more socially acceptable back then as well, even expected of you if you were the least drunk person among your friends. So too were "liquid lunches," both at school and work. And alcohol consumption, among both teens and adults, increased in all states as well (partly due to falling real alcohol prices in the 1970s) until it peaked around 1980 and then declined.
Moral Panic and MADD
Regardless of what actually happened or the causes thereof, a moral panic occurred in America over teen drinking, beginning in the late 1970s. A deviancy amplification spiral by the media only fueled the fire. Minnesota raised its drinking age to 19 in 1976, only three years after lowering it to 18, and many other states followed suit from 1977-1983. A handful raised it to 20, mostly in the New England region. And in 1978, Michigan raised it to 21, being joined by a few more states in the early 1980s, such as New Jersey in 1983. But most states did not want to raise it that high, and some wanted to keep it at 18. Thus, a patchwork quilt of different drinking ages stretched from coast to coast.
Enter MADD in 1980. Candy Lightner's 13 year old daughter was hit and killed by a 46 year old drunk driver with prior convictions, and was given a fairly lenient sentence. Lightner decided to found Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) and launch a crusade against this very real problem. To their credit, they spread awareness about it and made it less socially acceptable to drive drunk, and pushed for (and got) tougher new laws against it. However, grief turned to vengeance, and they rapidly became more and more fanatical, and took the fight far beyond drunk driving, or even driving itself. It was not enough that the drunk drivers themselves had to pay. No, America had to pay for the sins of their worst, as a society that tolerated DUI back then. Or at least start with one demographic group at a time, so as not to seem too neo-prohibitionist too soon. And they found their target demographic, one that seldom voted and had by that point become politically impotent--18-20 year olds. A group that was increasingly reviled by the media as stupid, ignorant, immature, rebellious, and violent. Nevermind the inconvenient fact that 21-24 year olds were (and still are) the worst drunk drivers in terms of fatalities, or that Lightner's daughter was killed by a 46 year old (a teenager was killed by an adult). MADD pressured states to raise their drinking ages to 21 shortly after being founded. Most were not very eager to do so. So MADD turned its sights to Washington instead.
The Drinking Age is Raised to 21
In 1982, President Reagan appointed a special commission to study the problem of drunk driving in America, and they gave 39 recommendations. Number 8 was to have a uniform drinking age of 21 across all states to eliminate "blood borders," which is similar to what happens when people from dry counties get drunk in their wet neighboring counties and drive home. (Though not every study supports the blood borders hypothesis) That was the one that really stuck the most, more than the other 38 recommendations, and that MADD latched onto. Nevermind that a uniform drinking age of 18 would do the same thing, or even beefing up patrols near the relevant state lines would likely suffice. Or make drunk driving a federal crime (punishable by federal prison time) when done across state lines as well. But none of these alternatives were seriously considered by the feds when cajoled by MADD to implement what they wanted. And "dry county syndrome" was not even discussed.
In 1984 (a rather ominous year), Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) wrote the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, which withheld a portion of federal highway funding from any state that did not have a law on the books by October 1986 prohibiting "purchase and public possession" of any alcoholic beverage (0.5% ABV or greater) by all people under 21. Those that did not comply would lose 5% of funds in FY 1987 and 10% in FY 1988 (it was later made permanent). While the law contained several exceptions and loopholes, it was eerily similar to the Volstead Act in both its definitions and wording. The highway funding penalty was an end-run around the Constitution since the federal government has no delegated power to set a drinking age (it is up to the states). Lautenberg wrote it partly becuase he wanted to force New York to raise its drinking age to 21 since young New Jerseyans would go there, get drunk, and drive back. This very issue had been a bone of contention between the two states in the 1960s before NJ lowered its drinking age to 18 in 1973, and now it had returned. Again, New Jersey could have avoided this entirely by not raising their own drinking age back to 21 when New York's was 19 (NY raised it to 19 in 1982 after being 18 since 1934, nearly half a century). They reap what they sow. But Lautenberg (and others) wanted the feds to protect them from the consequences of their own failed policy.
Lautenberg's wish was granted. By then, the moral panic had reached a crescendo. Under the influence of both MADD and junk science, Congress passed the bipartisan bill. Reagan was against it at first because it violated states' rights, but 1984 was an election year and he was easily moved by MADD's emotional anecdotes, so he signed it into law. Despite her victory, Candy Lightner quit the organization in 1986, saying that it became far too "neo-prohibitionist" for her (her words, not ours). Evidently, some members talked about criminalizing driving after drinking any amount of alcohol, for all ages, and she took exception to that relatively extreme idea. But even that would be more lenient than banning people from drinking without driving, which is precisely what she wanted for those under 21. (More about her later)
States reacted to the law in various ways. Some complied right away, or were already 21 before. Others were less eager to change. Some went along with it and passed sunset clauses for the 21 drinking age to expire in 1989, but the highway funding penalty was made permanent (10% in any year after 1988 as well) by the feds after this was discovered (though grandfather clauses were explicity allowed). Still others fought the federal law in the U.S. Supreme Court, and lost. The case South Dakota vs. Dole (1987) challenged the constitutionality of the law, but the law was unfortunately upheld, ultimately setting a precedent for further federal coercion by funding penalties for not following other federal laws in the future. By the October 1, 1986 deadline, only seven states had drinking ages below 21. In 1988, the last two states (South Dakota and Wyoming) finally bowed down to the feds and raised their drinking ages to 21, and some states had grandfather clauses that lasted until 1989. But Puerto Rico was no sellout. They chose to keep the age at 18 despite the 10% funding penalty and put up toll booths to make up the loss of money, and that became the "new normal" for them.
Louisiana was an interesting case. As a state that had a drinking age of 18 since the 1930s, and as one of the states that fought the feds in court, they reluctantly passed a law in 1987 raising the age to 21 de jure specifically for purchase and public possession in order to not lose highway funding. It followed the precise letter of the federal law. But they kept the age 18 otherwise, and no penalty for selling alcohol to those over 18. Believe it or not, that was still compliance with the federal law since purchase by 18-20 year olds was prohibited, but that made it toothless. Nor did the feds require penalties or enforcement, just that the laws be on the books. In other words, it was 21 only on paper, and 18 de facto in Louisiana. And they lost no highway funding for doing so. This prevailed until 1995, when Louisiana closed the sale loophole, making it 21 for that as well. In 1996, this was fought in the Louisiana Supreme Court and the 21 drinking age was overturned entirely, making the age 18 across the board for three months. An uproar occurred when the feds and Slick Willie threatened to take away highway funding, and the court unfortunately reversed its decision.
Effects and Aftermath
The effects of the drinking age hike in 38 states and DC (12 were 21 throughout) have been controversial, and the jury's still out on whether any lives were really saved. A media and political pseduo-consensus that NHTSA's specious estimate of 900 lives per year being saved is true has prevailed until very recently. First of all, out of 12 million 18-20 year olds, that amounts to 0.0075% of that population. And about 90% of those who die in alcohol-related crashes are the drunk drivers themselves (55%) and their willing passengers, while more innocent people are killed each year by trains than by drunken 18-20 year olds. Second of all, many more than that number of lives is currently lost off the highways due to alcohol poisoning, non-traffic accidents, fights, and drowning in our neo-speakeasy atmosphere where alcohol is forced underground and made more dangerous than it has to be. Third of all, the "900 a year" figure is based on the decline in fatalities among 18-20 year olds in a few years in the 1980s, with the dual assumptions that 1) the apparent effects were due entirely to raising the drinking age and not confounding factors, and 2) the effects persisted beyond the first year or two, all else being equal. Both assumptions are false, according to several studies (see Five Studies that Debunk the Rest for more info). So we need to be able to see the forest for the trees.
Also, some studies suggest that even if some lives were saved, it merely delayed the deaths by a few years, shifting them from 18-20 year olds to 21-24 year olds (again, see the aforementioned studies). So any claims of a net lifesaving effect are likely spurious. And here is the dirty little secret of the 21 drinking age: adding a few more years to the lives of 18 year old potential drunk drivers gives them that many more years to kill more innocent victims. Thus there may have even been a net increase in fatalities in the long run when you put it all together. The movie White Noise 2 comes to mind.
Remember too that a lot has changed since 1984. In fact, the decline in "alcohol-related" fatalities began in 1982, probably even earlier since FARS did not gather alcohol data until that year. Traffic fatalities in general for 18-20 year olds peaked in 1979-1980 and have declined fairly steadily since, and the same can be said for 15-24 year olds. These trends predate by several years the 21 drinking age in most states, and occurred in states that did not change their drinking ages as well. Save for the brief and modest increase in fatalities from 1976-1980 that occurred in nearly all states regardless of drinking age, what happened in the 1980s was part of a long-term, secular decline in 15-24 year old fatalities, and indeed for all ages, beginning in 1969. Various reasons for this trend include safer cars, improved traffic engineering, seat belt laws, tougher laws (and enforcement) against drunk driving, and public awareness and educational initiatives. And the same thing happened in Canada as well without raising the drinking age to 21, which really says something. Ditto for Australia as well.
What about "binge" drinking, you ask? First of all, the term is being used incorrectly to refer to having 5 drinks in a night at least once in the past two weeks, regardless of how fast or slow, or of individual factors. And reducing it to a number of drinks strips away all context, and we know that context matters a great deal. That's why we put the term in scare quotes. Some definitions put the number at 4 drinks for women, but we'll use 5 for argument's sake. The media constantly alleges that it has gotten worse among teenagers. But surveys such as Monitoring the Future show "binge" drinking rates peaking for high school seniors between 1979-1981 and declining dramatically until about 1992, when it increased somewhat until 1997, and then decreased further until it recently hit a record low. This happened in nearly all states regardless of the drinking age, and was a secular trend. The same was true for 18-22 year olds who were not in college. For college students, however, it remained remarkably stable over the past few decades, hovering around 40% of students answering yes. But the devil is in the details. "Frequent binge drinking," or "binging" at least three times in the past two weeks, went up in the 1990s at a much faster rate than simple "binge" drinking. Semantics aside, that does not sound nearly as scary as when you consider the strong correlation between "extreme" drinking (10 or more drinks in a night, or 8 for a woman) and "frequent binging" found in one study. This truly dangerous behavior has not been tracked over time, so we don't know for sure, but given the correlation one can plausibly conclude that it increased over time, even when fewer people "binged" in general. In fact, from 1998-2005, alcohol poisoning deaths (a good proxy for extreme drinking) among college students tripled. This would not be surprising when you look at what happened during Prohibition, when artificial scarcity, unpredictability, forbidden fruit, and clandestinization led to truly dangerous drinking. The parallels between then and now are staggering, pun intended of course. Either way, it was the Law of Eristic Escalation in action. And that would soon goad the powers that be to get even tougher.
Remember too, that raising the drinking age may also increase underreporting of drinking and "binge" drinking in surveys, primarily due to its illegality and lessened social acceptability. Additionally, much like during Prohibition, hard liquor is now the drink of choice for teen drinkers, being much easier to conceal and more efficient in terms of getting drunk. Such concentrated beverages are easy to mismeasure, and self-poured mixed drinks made with them are usually much stronger than a can of beer, leading to underestimated reports of how many "drinks" are consumed. So survey results need to be taken with a grain of salt.
Though the National Minimum Drinking Age Act only required states to prohibit purchase and public possession in order to not lose highway funding, and had several exceptions, and did not mandate enforcement, many states took it a step further and passed various ancillary laws to prop up the failing 21 drinking age. These included dram shop, social host, keg registration, zero tolerance, use and lose, fake ID, furnishing to minors, attempt to purchase, and even prohibition of possession/consumption in private residences. Some states even prohibit parents from giving their own kids alcohol, though most still allow them to do so in private. Enforcement of some of the more wacky laws necessitates warrantless searches and/or arresting people for simply being at the wrong place at the wrong time with zero physical evidence. In a few states, cops even breathalyze pedestrians to attempt to enforce laws against underage "internal possession." Not like these ancillary laws really work either (except maybe zero tolerance for drinking and driving). But the cancer of arbitrary age discrimination has metastasized nonetheless, to the point where even colleges are expected to play "nanny" to 18-20 year old adults.
As for Candy Lightner (the same founder of MADD who quit the organization due to it becoming, in her own words, neoprohibitionist) she had the audacity to say the following in 2008 about the drinking age:
It [the brain of 18-year-olds] isn’t developed, and that’s exactly why the draft age is 18, because these kids are malleable. They will follow the leader, they don’t think for themselves and they are the last ones I want to say ‘here’s a gun, and here’s a beer.’ They are not adults; that’s why they’re in the military. They are not adults.
Apparently, she still stands by her initial support for the 21 drinking age, even if she has to implicity insult our men and women in uniform just to prove her point. Honestly, is that really the best the pro-21 crowd can do?
And so, for 24 years now the drinking age has been 21 in all 50 states and DC. The issue has been quietly simmering on the back burner until very recently, when several states are seriously considering lowering the drinking age. Even many college presidents acknowledge that 21 is not working, despite it being enforced more stringently than ever before. That fact has been obvious from day one. Prohibition didn't work then, and it is not working now. And it's time to change our failed alcohol policy.
What better time than now?