Opinion

Since we're legalizing marijuana, can we talk about lowering the drinking age?

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Food and Drink,Charlie Spiering,Marijuana,Drug Legalization

Since Americans are growing more comfortable with the idea of legalizing marijuana, perhaps it's time to revisit the possibility of lowering the drinking age.

After all, many of the same arguments in favor of legalizing the drug apply to the general prohibition of alcohol for adults under the age of 21.

A frequent argument cited by marijuana proponents is the general culture of lawlessness surrounding a prohibited substance. This is especially common for underaged drinkers who are more likely to drive and binge drink at events centered on alcohol.

A significant number of high school seniors have experienced alcoholic beverages while simultaneously dodging the law and their parents. When the prohibitive culture is replaced by a more permissive college drinking culture, young people are forced to learn their lessons on alcohol with their peers.

Underaged drinkers deal with unequal enforcement of the law, primarily based on race or privilege, in similar patterns as those frequently cited by marijuana users.

The law also punishes responsible drinking by strictly prohibiting any use of alcohol.

A sober person younger than 21 driving his impaired friends home could easily have his life destroyed if a police officer discovers he has any alcohol in his system.

Parents seeking to put their kids and their friends in a controlled drinking environment face heavy fines and jail time for hosting events in their homes.

The physical and financial cost on enforcing the largely unheeded prohibition of alcohol for underaged adults are resources perhaps better spent on preventing dangerous crimes such as drunken driving.

None of these arguments, however, are as popular as the common sense argument based on this general sentiment: If an 18-year old American can die for his country in the military, vote and/or serve on a jury, he should be allowed drink openly with his fellow adults.

Very little has been said on the subject since a group of college presidents joined the Amethyst Initiative in 2008, calling on lawmakers to lower the drinking age from 21 to 18.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the various public highway safety government officials welcomed this conversation with the predictable stiff refusal to consider the options.

With the federal law forcing all states to raise the drinking age to 21 or face a loss in highway funds, it is highly unlikely that proponents for lowering the drinking age can achieve a legislative breakthrough like the one reached by activists in the states of Colorado and Washington.

But put it to a majority vote, as Colorado did with Amendment 64, and you will likely experience a similar result: Americans desire personal responsibility and accountability on the grounds of fairness and equal application of the law over strict prohibition.

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