STORY BY SYDNEY WATSON
The nationwide drinking age used to be 18, but then the country decided to change the age to 21. This resulted in a 78 percent decrease in deaths of people younger than 21 in drunken car crashes.
The number of those under 21 dying in alcohol-related crashes declined 46 percent in the past decade as well. Minnesota has recently resurfaced the issue by proposing the lowering the drinking age back down to 18.
State Representative Phyllis Kahn is the chief advocate. She has tried in the past to lower the drinking age without success. She now has two new bills she will present, both of which advocate for persons under 21 to be allowed to drink in restaurants and bars. One bill proposes that those 18 and up can drink, but only with their parents, guardian or a person of age (like the Wisconsin law).
The other bill, which Kahn favors, proposes that those 18 and up would be able to drink without a parent, guardian or person of age present.
Neither bill allows anyone under 21 to purchase alcohol from a store. Kahn’s main reasoning behind lowering the drinking age is to teach young adults how to drink responsibly in public settings, so they are not stocking up on alcohol and binge drinking behind closed doors.
House Commerce Chairman Joe Hoppe said college faculty and administrators have reported that since the drinking age was raised to 21 their “binge drinking in college (is) as much or more than ever.”
He says he is on board of lowering to 19, but not 18. This distinction would ensure that the new law only affects college students and not high school students.
Over 130 university presidents and chancellors from across the nation have signed a statement that is part of the Amethyst Initiative. The initiative states that the current drinking law is not working as well as it could, and that the legal drinking age should be reconsidered.
State Representative Erik Simonson of Duluth, Minnesota is the co-sponsor of the bill. Simonson does not, however, necessarily advocate for the bill.
“The only reason I signed on to it — and I did two years ago, too — was (because) it does prompt a lot of calls and emails and questions, and those are great conversations we need to be having,” Simonson explained this on Feb. 22 in a meeting with News Tribune board members.
Governor Dayton, as well as the Department of Public Safety, are not advocating for the proposition to lower the drinking age. “I think we are better off staying where we are,” the governor said to Doug Beldon, of TwinCities.com on Feb. 5.
“I haven’t talked to any of the legislators about it, I don’t have an etched-in-concrete position, but this debate has been going on appropriately for many years now, and the middle ground comes down to: It should be 21, where it is now.”
Teaching young adults how to act in a public setting with alcohol and working to decrease the college binge-drinking problem are great ideas that
Representative Kahn has brought to the table. However, being a 19 year old college female myself, I see these issues and hear what she is proposing, but I would have to side with the governor of Minnesota on this one.
The statistics are there. Drinking and driving and drunken car crash death rates have tumbled since the legal age has been raised to 21.
I agree that young people do not know how to drink casually in a public setting, but simply changing the age does not get rid of the problem.
I fear the bill will advocate the start of unhealthy drinking patterns for even younger people. Right now the average teenage boy starts drinking at the age of 11, and teen girls begin trying alcohol at the young age of 13. I am worried that if this law is passed, these ages will sink even lower as time progresses.