Bill would lower drinking age for active service members

It’s a question you’ve probably heard or asked many times in your life, particularly when you were younger: how can the law allow 18-year-olds to do everything from vote to join the military, yet still prohibit them from legally having a drink?

As outrageous as this state of affairs likely seemed to you at the time, you more than likely just accepted the fact that your state’s drinking laws were unlikely to change for the foreseeable future. Interestingly enough, however, one lawmaker here in Maryland is actually taking a stand on the matter, calling for the state to lower the drinking age for a certain subset of young people.

Senator Ron Young has introduced Senate Bill 213, which, if passed, would lower the drinking age for active service members to 18.

This wouldn’t mean that these young active service members would have carte blanche when it comes to the consumption and purchase of alcohol. Rather, SB 213 would only legalize the sale of beer and wine — no hard alcohol — to active service members at licensed bars and restaurants.

As you might expect, Young’s bill has already encountered widespread opposition from multiple parties, including vehicle safety advocacy groups who worry that the bill would encourage binge drinking and, more significantly, lead to more drunk driving as people drive across the borders to take advantage of the lower minimum drinking age.

Perhaps most compelling of all, however, is the argument by lawmakers that to lower the drinking age would run the risk of the state running afoul of federal law, which expressly states that transportation funds — roughly $32 million per year for Maryland — can be forfeited for noncompliance with the prohibition on alcohol sales to those under 21.

While Young has indicated that the state could request a waiver so as not to endanger the federal funding, officials indicate that no such waiver has ever been granted and no other state has such a measure on its books.

It will be interesting to see if SB 213 gains the necessary legislative support.

What are your thoughts on lowering the drinking age for active service members ages 18 to 21?

Source:, “Maryland lawmaker proposes dropping drinking age for troops to 18,” Bethany Rodgers, Feb. 28, 2015

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