America’s alcohol policy is a perfect example of drug policy with unrealistic expectations and inadvertent consequences. Our current policy attempts to prevent underage drinking by criminalizing youth who consume alcohol before they are 21 years old. This is the highest drinking age that exists among all countries in the world, and millions of dollars have been spent on the enforcement of this law. Yet today, more than 90% of high school seniors claim that alcohol is easy to obtain, and nearly 50% have admitted to drinking in the past 30 days.
The current minimum drinking age forces young people to experiment with alcohol in unsafe environments and leads to a higher level of binge drinking among youth. Additionally, as a result of this minimum age law, schools often provide “abstinence-only” education, which is far less effective at preventing abuse than programs that encourage responsibility. We don't hand teenagers car keys without first educating them about how to drive. Why expect 21-year-olds to learn how to drink responsibly without learning from moderate models, at home and in alcohol education programs
American 18-year-olds have the right to vote, marry, buy guns and join the military. They're smart enough to defend their country, decide elected officials and serve on a jury -- but not regulate their own appetites? They deserve the chance to learn.