With marijuana legalization, is it time to reconsider the drinking age?

Near the end of the Vietnam War, most states lowered the drinking age to 18 on the theory that if young men can be pulled off the street and sent to war via the draft, they should be able to buy a drink.

The war ended, the draft ended, and the federal government started threatening to withhold highway funding to any state that didn’t raise the drinking age back to 21.

It’s time to drop it to 18 again, argues Camille Paglia, writing on Time.com today.

Learning how to drink responsibly is a basic lesson in growing up — as it is in wine-drinking France or in Germany, with its family-oriented beer gardens and festivals. Wine was built into my own Italian-American upbringing, where children were given sips of my grandfather’s home-made wine. This civilized practice descends from antiquity.

Beer was a nourishing food in Egypt and Mesopotamia, and wine was identified with the life force in Greece and Rome: In vino veritas (in wine, truth). Wine as a sacred symbol of unity and regeneration remains in the Christian Communion service. Virginia Woolf wrote that wine with a fine meal lights a “subtle and subterranean glow, which is the rich yellow flame of rational intercourse.”

What this cruel 1984 law did is deprive young people of safe spaces where they could happily drink cheap beer, socialize, chat, and flirt in a free but controlled public environment. Hence in the 1980s we immediately got the scourge of crude binge drinking at campus fraternity keg parties, cut off from the adult world. Women in that boorish free-for-all were suddenly fighting off date rape. Club drugs — Ecstasy, methamphetamine, ketamine (a veterinary tranquilizer) — surged at raves for teenagers and on the gay male circuit scene.

“This tyrannical infantilizing of young Americans must stop!” Paglia writes.

  • Gary F

    Drunk/high texting 19 year olds. Yikes.

    • Drunk/high texting 30 year olds. Yikes.

      • Gary F

        Yep, them too. But at 30, they have more driving experience and more maturity.

        I was once 19 and once 30 and I have an 18 year old. And all I can say is yikes.

        • “But at 30, they have more driving experience and more maturity.”

          One would hope.

          “I was once 19 and once 30 and I have an 18 year old. And all I can say is yikes.”

          Same here, except my kids are 22 and 24.

          The drinking age was 19 when I was of that age and I remember how utterly clueless I was about most things.

          The key is education and responsibility. We’d have to take a look at responsible alcohol consumption much like the Western European countries do.

          Boosting public transportation options would help as well. Keep the drunks off the street and all.

        • Kassie

          I too was once 19. And I got drunk. And I got high. I didn’t text through, because that wasn’t a thing yet.

  • Dave

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe drunken driving deaths declined significantly when the age was raised to 21.

    • MikeB

      And would decline if we raised the drinking age to 30.

      • andy

        I’m fine with the drinking age being 30 (says the 39 year old)

      • Joe

        It would reduce to zero if we restored prohibition!

        • Cam

          Because no one drank during prohibition? Kind of like no one smokes pot except were it’s been legalized, right? While we’re at it, let’s not teach teenagers about sex so none of them will get pregnant!

  • Joe

    It turns out there is still a lot of work to be done on marijuana legalization to even be considering this flawed analogy. If anything drinking and smoking cannabis should be allowed for people 25 and older, as that is when the brain stops developing. Moreover, cannabis certainly shouldn’t be available to 18 year olds, even 21 might be too young, because one of cannabis’ few relative dangers is children starting young and starting heavy, just like alcohol. It’s why it needs to be under a point of sale regime whereby cannabis users are carded before purchase from a trusted distributer for anyone who thinks they need it.

  • Jim G

    I GOT MARRIED AT TWENTY. I know… I should have known better. However, that marriage did last twenty-seven years. My point is that my former bride and I were making more important decisions than whether or not we would consume alcohol on our wedding day. We chose not to, although we legally could have back in 73.

  • David c

    Are you people telling me if one of your kids joined the military and came home from deployment and said I want a beer or I want to go to the bar for a cold one. But all of a sudden I’m underage I can’t ,but im going to a buddies to drink instead and I will have to be careful for cop’s. Don’t tell me none of you parents would say no your not because your underage. If you ask me if your in the military and 18 and want a drink you should not be declined of that.